I typically defer to Bastard Nation to track and report nationally on adoptee-related legislation. But since I’m tracking a number of bills myself already, I thought I’d throw out a quick post on what bills are still alive this session, plus list those that may have come and gone and are now either dead or barely hanging on. If you are an advocate working on a bill, feel free to pipe in below with a comment that could clarify or correct anything I report here.
Arkansas: House Bill 1636. Out of the blue, Arkansas passed a conditionally restrictive OBC access bill that provides access to the OBC, subject to disclosure vetoes. It also has a provision that could be interpreted as a “contact veto,” which could be used to criminalize contact by an adoptee if the birth parent indicates no contact is desired. The law goes into effect in 2018. More information, including the law’s text, is available on our Arkansas OBC page.
Connecticut: Senate Bill 977. Access Connecticut continues to move forward with a clean OBC access bill. It stands more than a fighting chance, as it only seeks to remove a date-based restriction from current law, restoring equal OBC access for all adult adoptees.
Massachusetts: H.1163/S.1195. This literally is a fourteen-word bill, as in strike out the following words from the current Massachusetts statute: “on or before July 17, 1974” and “on or after January 1, 2008.” That’s it. With fourteen words—most of those being “or” or “on”— it assures equality for all adult adoptees in Massachusetts. The bills are still alive and have more sponsors this session than in previous sessions.
New York: A6821A/S5169A. There are at least five OBC-related bills moving their way through the New York legislature. Some bills conflict directly, even though they are authored by the same legislator. Yeesh. Two companion bills are clean. Of all the legislative activity out there, New York is probably the most confusing and hardest to follow, so it’s not clear how things stand or what chance for passage exists this session. For that, it’s best to check in with Bastard Nation or state advocates as more information comes out. As it stands now, all bills appear to be in committee.
North Carolina: House Bill 823. I swear there’s a 40-year-old corporate bigwig in North Carolina who knows his parents and just wants his OBC. Because, at least in North Carolina, 40 is trying to be the new 18. As in, you must be forty years old to get an OBC, plus provide “proof” of your birth parents’ identities. This bill passed the North Carolina House 113-0 and is now awaiting senate action.
South Carolina: H.3775. No one seems to know who is behind this bill and where it stands. It is a clean bill, with a genuine contact preference form. It was heard in committee on April 27, but no news has yet to come out of that committee. In the meantime, another South Carolina bill seeks to expand who may seek identifying information from public agency adoption records by expanding access to birth grandparents and siblings so long as there is consent. That bill seems to be flying by and may look to pass, potentially muting or killing support for the actual OBC access bill. Hard to tell.
Texas: Senate Bill 329. It’s hard to predict what’s going to happen with SB329, which is a clean bill with a genuine contact preference form. The bill appears to have stalled because of opposition from perennial opposer Senator Donna Campbell, an adoptive mom who has has become a staunch advocate for the tiny cadre of birth parents who insist on anonymity. Though SB329 was reported out favorably from committee, the bill’s sponsor is said to be seeking additional sponsors before putting it back on the senate calendar for vote. A companion bill in the House is HB547.
Florida: HB257. This was a clean bill with not much else except access to the OBC upon reaching the age of 18. It did not receive a hearing in committee and is now considered dead.
Iowa: HF 119. Another clean bill with a genuine contact preference form. Unfortunately, it suffered the same fate as others: no committee hearing, thus no mas. I’m sure we’ll see this one again.
Minnesota: SF1284. Minnesota, the state that introduced sealed records 100 years ago, is one of the more complicated OBC access states, with date-based access, disclosure vetoes, zombie vetoes, and potential court involvement at the end. Advocates have been trying to reform Minnesota law for years—at least to provide due process for those who are denied access—but advocates have been consistently stymied by Minnesota’s powerful pro-life lobby. It happened again this session, with the bill dying in committee. Look for 2018 for any real future action.
Mississippi: Senate Bill 2690. North Carolina legislators are apparently not the only misguided folks who believe that 40-year-olds are suddenly mature enough to get their original birth certificates. SB2690, introduced in January, would have allowed release of an original birth certificate forty years after it was sealed. The bill, however, died early in committee.
North Dakota: HB1319. This was a clean and simple OBC access bill that got voted down early in the legislative session, despite efforts by a North Dakota Adoptee Rights group.
West Virginia: Senate Bill 53. This was not specifically an OBC access bill. The bill attempted to provide consent-based access to adoption records, which does not include the OBC. It is a terrible bill, with rights of redaction for identifying information. Worse, core legislative work appears to be delegated to implementing regulations. The bill failed to receive any action before the legislature adjourned in early April.
Two states, Indiana and Missouri, are currently implementing new laws. Indiana’s goes into full effect in July 2018, while Missouri’s law is effective for all adoptees beginning January 1, 2018. Both laws, though, contain significant restrictions, including redaction, corrupt contact preference forms, disclosure vetoes, and zombie vetoes. Recently, Missouri also approved new implementing regulations that require redaction of an OBC even if the birth parent desires contact but requests it through a third party.
Jo Swanson says
The restrictions would be humorous if not so aggravating in light of today’s monumental successes in DNA-based adoption searches. The Arkansas bill, for example, actually encourages adoptees who seek contact (as opposed to simply desiring the OBC) to go the DNA route first before applying for the OBC to avoid possible criminal charges. I hope I live long enough to be able to look back on OBC-denial laws as curious breaches in civil rights.
Although Iowa’s didn’t make it to committee hearing, it was heard and passed sub committee, which is a first for us. We also gained a lot of needed support! Look for things to happen next year.
Gregory D. Luce says
Thanks for the update. And keep in touch!