The truth about Florida is this: no OBC access bill will get through the Florida legislature this session without legislators adding crippling and discriminatory restrictions. No chance. I’m confident saying this publicly, and everyone I have spoken to privately has said the same. It is clear that disclosure vetoes or redactions—the restrictions and black boxes that hide or obliterate identity on an adoptee’s own birth record—will be added to any version of an OBC access bill that makes its way out of a Florida legislative hearing this session.
Especially HB357, the badly drafted and inequitable bill that many adoptees, allies, and 26 state and national organizations oppose. It is already front-loaded with inequitable restrictions and major drafting problems. The chair of one critical committee in the Florida House has also vowed to oppose it because he believes it would impact abortion rates, no matter the falsity of that belief. If HB357 gets a hearing, he and other right-to-life legislators will undoubtedly add vetoes or redactions and will dismantle any real future chance of unrestricted access in Florida, likely for generations.
What HB357 Does
The bill creates three inequitable classes or “tiers” of adoptees, with access to the OBC determined by the date of adoption. It has significant drafting errors that will do little for pre-1977 adoptees, plus requires a forty-year wait period for many other adoptees in order to access their own records.
Get more facts here.
I tell you this so that it is known and so that you can understand how decisions are made when the issue involves equality, not expediency.
I also tell you this because a Florida representative has in the last week filed a “clean” bill with no access restrictions other than the adoptee being 18 years of age. I support clean bills. That’s clear. But this bill is problematic, for two reasons: 1) just like HB357, a clean bill has no chance of passage without discriminatory amendments being added; and 2) it is being filed as a sacrifice. That is, the bill is not being offered for its substance—that of unrestricted access. It is instead being offered for its value, that of making it appear that there is interest to pass a bill—any bill—related to OBC access, no matter how problematic or discriminatory that bill may become. Simply put, the clean bill has been set up and framed so that the bad bill can move forward.
Why say this when to do so makes it appear that I do not fully support a clean bill? I say it to be honest. The filing of this clean bill, five weeks after the introduction of a badly flawed bill that has generated near universal opposition, simultaneously complicates and simplifies advocacy. A clean bill, at least in Florida, simplifies advocacy because it becomes an easy way to educate legislators about what adoptee equality actually looks like. That education has been ongoing, and some of us have been using Alabama’s unrestricted access law as an example. But the truth is that the Florida legislature today is not ready to restore the right to unrestricted access to original birth records. It ain’t going to happen, and that means discriminatory compromise and restrictions are last-ditch options—but only if you allow them to be. That’s the complication of truth, and it is why we oppose HB357. We know where it is headed. It is also why I am guarded about the recent filing of a clean bill, particularly within the context of Florida. It will go the same way as HB357, if not actually used to support HB357 to get there instead.
So what specifically should you and me and other adoptee rights advocates and allies do now?
Tell the truth. And also ask for truth. I will always tell you about the facts of any pending bills. I am honest when I say that the chances of a clean 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, not only the minimal chances of unrestricted and equal access for all but also the very real chance that a bill pushed through today will go off the rails once it receives a hearing. Equality advocates witnessed this in Missouri. Thousands of us are watching it in real-time in New York: clean and dirty bills pursued at the same time with a very specific strategic expectation: either 1) get a hearing so that the clean bill will be compromised with ridiculously broad redactions (Missouri) or 2) limit the advance of a clean bill so that a bad bill with redactions and other restrictions can move forward toward passage (New York).
That’s the reality today, in Missouri, in New York, in Florida, and likely in other states moving forward. And it’s a reality that must be met with truth as well as with a genuine and unwavering commitment to adoptee rights. That’s what we are about. That’s why we tell the truth.
What We Are Continuing to Do
- We are continuing work to educate legislators about adoptee rights and the importance of clean OBC access bills;
- We are working closely with Florida adoptees and allies as well as a broad group of 26 organizations that favor clean legislation in Florida;
- Constituents will be meeting with Representative Barry Russell, the sponsor of the clean bill, to understand his commitment to adoptee rights and to discuss his motivation in pursuing his bill;
- We will continue to monitor whether the clean bill will get a senate sponsor. It will not move forward without that sponsor. Update: Senator Annette Tadeo has introduced SB1250, the companion bill now to Rep. Russell’s House bill.
- We will continue our efforts to kill the inequitable bill known as HB357. We have repeatedly asked the sponsor to withdraw it. We do not expect that he will.
We will also do one more thing: we will continue to tell you the truth. Unlike secretive advocates for HB357, we don’t hide and we are not anonymous. You can follow our efforts publicly here, on Bastard Nation, and on the Florida Adoption Initiative Reform (FAIR) Facebook group and page. Or you can just send me an email.
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