Note: This is updated from a prior post about bills introduced in Florida. Nothing has changed politically in the state since the original post. The Florida legislature has actually become more conservative and it is unlikely to allow an equal rights adoptee-oriented bill to pass this session without adding discriminatory amendments based on a false connection of adoptee rights to abortion.
The truth about Florida right now is this: no genuine adoptee rights bill will get through the Florida legislature without legislators adding crippling and discriminatory restrictions. No chance. I’m confident saying this publicly, and will jump into a frozen lake in Minnesota and donate $500 to charity if I am wrong. It is clear that disclosure vetoes or redactions—the restrictions and black boxes that seal or obliterate your own identity on your own birth record—will be added to any version of a bill that makes its way out of legislative hearings. At best (which may still be just as bad), the legislators will carve out a donut hole or date-based restriction that gives rights to pre-1977 adoptees and, if also in the lucky pile, adoptees who are born sometime in the near future. See, e.g., the current state of affairs in Arizona.
I tell you this so that it is known and so that you can understand how decisions are made when an adoptee rights issue does not involve equality but is instead about expediency.
I also tell you this as we watch what happens to the two bills recently introduced in the Florida legislature, each currently genuine equal rights bills that do not have discriminatory restrictions. I support these bills. I will request that the bills pass unamended. I will ask legislators to commit to equality. And I will encourage others to educate legislators that these are good bills that should pass. That’s always my commitment and I expect many others share that commitment with me.
But my request—our request—to support these bills in Florida is problematic, for two reasons: 1) it is problematic for reasons I’ve already discussed (a genuine equal rights bill has little chance of passage without discriminatory amendments being added); and 2) it is problematic because the current bills are sacrificial. That is, the bills are not being offered for genuine substance—that of assuring an unrestricted right to request and obtain your own original birth record. They are instead being offered as shells or carriers for discrimination. Simply put, the current bills have been set up and framed so that they can ultimately take on anti-adoptee provisions when they move forward. They are there to make it appear that there is interest in adoptee rights initially when in fact adoptee rights will be shunted aside early in the legislative process.
Why say this when to do so makes it appear that I do not fully support these bills? I say it to be honest. The filing of these bills in Florida simultaneously complicates and simplifies our advocacy. A genuine equal rights bill with a commitment from advocates to withdraw the bill if it goes off the rails simplifies advocacy because we know where advocates stand. A good bill with a commitment from advocates to oppose the bill if it adds discriminatory amendments becomes a good way to educate legislators about what adoptee equality actually looks like. That education has been ongoing, and I and many others have been using Alabama’s unrestricted equal rights law as an example.
But the truth is that the Florida legislature today is not ready to restore an adoptee’s right to obtain their own original birth records. It ain’t going to happen, and that means discriminatory compromise and restrictions are options already being laid on the table—but only if you allow them to be. That’s the complication of introducing a bill with no commitment to equality. If you pursue a bill when you already know where it is headed—and are not committed to oppose that bill when discriminatory amendments are added—then your advocacy for equality is at best fleeting, if not manipulative and wrong.
So what specifically should you and me and other adoptee rights advocates and allies do today?
Tell the truth. And also ask for truth. I am honest when I say that the chances of a genuine equal rights bill being enacted this session in Florida are close to zero. I’m telling you that so you understand the chances of securing equal rights in the state today, not only the minimal chances of unrestricted and equal rights for all but also the very real result that a bill pushed through today will go off the rails once it receives a hearing tomorrow. Equality advocates witnessed this in Missouri and many of us are watching it now in real-time in Arizona. If a commitment to equality rests only in the introduction of feel-good bills but does not extend to opposing archaic discriminatory provisions when they are added, then you need to get out of the game.
That’s the reality today, in Missouri, in Arizona, in Idaho, in Florida, and likely in other states moving forward when there is no deep advocate commitment to adoptee rights. And it’s a reality that must be met with truth as well as with a genuine and unwavering commitment to transparency in what you believe. That’s what I am about. That’s why I do what I do. I hope you commit to genuine adoptee rights too and put equality over expediency.