The following is an updated list of answers and questions about the Weprin/Montgomery Bill, which was finally passed in the New York Assembly on June 20, 2019.
What bill passed the New York State Senate and Assembly?
The assembly bill is A5494. The senate bill is S3419. When the bill was considered in the Assembly for final passage, the Assembly ultimately voted and passed S3419. That bill (S3419) will now be sent to Governor Andrew Cuomo for consideration and signature.
Who are the prime sponsors of the bill?
David Weprin is the prime sponsor of the Assembly bill, A5494. Senator Velmanette Montgomery is the prime sponsor of the New York Senate bill, S3419. Together the bill is known informally as the Weprin/Montgomery Bill.
What does the bill do?
In a nutshell the Weprin/Montgomery Bill requires release to an adult adoptee, upon request and payment of the regular fee for a vital record, of an unaltered and unredacted long form vault copy of the adoptee’s original birth certificate.
How old does an adoptee need to be to request the copy of the OBC?
At least 18 years of age.
Is the OBC a certified copy?
Yes, the long-form vault copy the department of health provides is certified. I expect that it will, like all other released pre-adoption birth certificates in the United States, include a notation that it cannot be used for identification purposes. This prevents the document from being used to establish two identities. As a side note, certification of a document only relates to the vital records department attesting that the copy is a true and correct copy of the original document on file.
I was born in Florida but adopted in New York. Does the bill do anything for me?
Yes. Under a separate provision in the bill, those born in a state (or country) other than New York but adopted in New York may request and obtain, without restriction, the information that would normally appear on the adopted person’s original birth certificate. This information must be provided by either the agency that handled the adoption or by the court. How that process will work has not yet been outlined.
I think my original birth certificate is held by the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene. Does the Weprin/Montgomery Bill address this?
Yes. The bill specifically addresses and requires the New York City Department of Health to release an OBC to the adult adoptee upon request. This is an important provision and was something advocates specifically worked to assure. It also requires that other specific local registrars, if they have the OBC, to provide the OBC upon request.
Can descendants of adoptees obtain a copy of their ancestors’ OBC?
Yes, under the Weprin/Montgomery Bill the people who can obtain a certified copy of the adoptee’s original birth certificate are: 1) the adopted person, if eighteen years of age or more; 2) the adopted person’s direct line descendants if the adoptee is deceased; or 3) the lawful representative of the adopted person.
How are descendants defined in the bill?
The bill uses the term “direct line descendants,” which would mean the children and grandchildren of the adult adoptee if the adoptee is deceased. This also includes any generation of children, grandchildren, great grandchildren, etc. The bill, however, is silent on whether descendants are considered biological or adoptive descendants.
Are the courts involved at all in the request for an original birth certificate?
No, the Weprin/Montgomery Bill separates the vital records process from the courts, as it should. All requests are to be made to the state or local registrar of vital records, depending on where the OBC is filed. There is one exception, and that is for adult adoptees who do not have an original birth certificate available in New York but who were adopted in a New York court. See the previous question “I was born in Florida but adopted in New York. Does the bill do anything for me?”
Does this mean I can get my OBC in New York right now?
No. See the next question, “when does the bill go into effect?”
When does the bill go into effect?
Assuming Governor Cuomo signs the bill, and we expect that he will, it is effective January 15, 2020. The New York State Department of Health, however, will begin to determine what regulations may be needed to implement the bill before it becomes fully effective in 2020. Unless you get a court order, you cannot get your OBC in New York upon request until at least January 15, 2020.
Where can I get more information and follow this bill as it goes to the Governor for signature?
Get updates from the New York Adoptee Right Coalition (NYARC) on its website and follow NYARC on Facebook and Twitter, where the most up-to-date news will be posted. Adoptee Rights Law Center is a core partner in NYARC, along with the Adoptive and Foster Family Coalition of New York and Bastard Nation (and Reclaim the Records has been a kick ass strategic partner in all this). You can also follow the bill’s progress on the New York Senate site here.