For adoptee rights bills in 2020, some have died, some are headed to governors for signature, and the remaining genuine equal rights bills are trying to get attention while a pandemic closes down capitols. Here’s a legislative update, as of March 16, 2020.
The Adoptee Citizenship Act continues to add bipartisan co-sponsors—on the House side. As of March 13, 2020, there are now 55 co-sponsors, including the original primary sponsors. It is a near equal mix of Republicans and Democrats, with wide-ranging political ideologies. With the recent addition of more sponsors—particularly Republican sponsors— it looks more likely that the HR2731 will receive a hearing in the House sometime this session, assuming a pandemic or other political chaos does not interfere. Prospects in the Senate, however, are far less optimistic.
Florida and Utah.
Of the states with bills still alive, two discriminatory bills are now headed to governors for consideration and signature. Florida’s HB89, passed yesterday in the Senate on the last day of the session, will be sent to Governor Ron DeSantis, who is expected to sign it. I’ve written about the bill numerous times, but here’s probably the quickest summary: it’s a nothing burger. It doesn’t do anything except reinforce a current consent-based system. Utah’s HB345 does something, though: it expands a parental permission framework to all adoptions, requiring consent of a birthparent to release an adoptee’s own “adoption documents” (which includes the OBC) and adds redaction to the discriminatory tool chest. It passed the House 68-0 and the Senate 27-0, and will go to Republican Governor Gary Herbert for consideration. Herbert, a step-parent adoptee himself, is expected to sign the bill.
Maryland has a genuine equal rights bill supported by the Capitol Coalition for Adoptee Rights and numerous other organizations. It passed the House overwhelmingly and is now in the Senate, where it was awaiting action in committee before the state legislature announced that the session would end early on March 18. Maryland Adoptee Rights advocate Susie Stricker, along with Maryland adoptee Peggy Klappenbeger, are leading efforts on the ground there and are doing the best they can under tough circumstances. Adoptee Rights Law Center, the American Adoption Congress, Bastard Nation, and others are involved in the coalition effort.
Connecticut and Massachusetts
These are the loophole states, where advocates are trying to eliminate date-based restrictions that limit who can obtain an original birth certificate—based on date of birth or date of adoption. Connecticut is trying to get rid the black hole pre-1983 years, and SB113 will do that. Nevertheless, the entire Capitol Complex is now closed on account of COVID-19 and meetings and sessions for the next few weeks have been cancelled. It is not known how long the session will effectively be shuttered. Massachusetts is also in familiar territory in trying to eliminate discriminatory gap years—those born between 1974 and 2008—but H.1862 is again stuck in the same committee as in prior sessions. It’s unclear how easy it will be to dislodge the bill and move it to a floor vote. The legislature continues to meet in session during the pandemic, though the Senate President announced on March 16 that the State House will be closed to the public.
Minnesota and Arizona
These bills—genuine equal rights bills—are either on life support or have significantly diminished chances of passage this session. In Minnesota, the deadline for committee hearing was March 13, and HF2906/SF2606 did not make that deadline. While an informational hearing was discussed, the Minnesota legislature has now moved to an “on-call” session through at least April 14, and nearly all non-essential bills will be sidelined. Arizona’s HB2600, which already passed the House, is stuck in the Judiciary Committee, where its chair apparently wants it to remain. It’s in familiar territory for many equal rights bills: a single legislator with a beef. The legislature announced new restrictions on committee testimony and in-person meetings, likely making it much harder to lobby individual members.
Wisconsin and Iowa
These are discriminatory bills. Wisconsin, while not yet amended to include parental permission provisions, appears on life support, having sat in committees after hearings. Adoptee Rights Law Center and others have opposed the bill, which does not even release an OBC—it releases only a court form. I don’t expect the bills to move, but you never know. There is no official indication yet if the Wisconsin legislature will recess or adjourn early.
Iowa is just, well, Iowa. Iowa SF621 simply won’t die. But it is a discriminatory bill that uses a corrupt contact preference form to do its work, namely by adding this provision:
I do not want to be contacted. I request that my personally identifiable information be redacted from the noncertified copy of the original birth certificate of birth and my contact preference form.
This discriminatory provision was agreed to last session by Iowa Adoptee and Family Coalition, so it’s basically baked into the bill at this point. The Iowa legislature has suspended its session for at least 30 days in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Rhode Island and Tennessee
These are the surprise bills of the 2020 legislative session. Rhode Island’s bill lowers the age an adoptee may request the OBC from 25 to 18. While Rhode Island is an unrestricted rights state, this move will bring it into the group of states that set the age of unrestricted rights to 18. Its chances for passage are not fully known, but it seems a no-brainer. Legislative sessions have been cancelled for the week of March 16-20, and legislative offices are currently closed.
Tennessee, in a roughly similar move, is attempting to repeal the contact veto in its current law, probably the most egregious restriction that makes Tennessee a compromised rights state. It has hearings March 17 and March 18 in both the House and Senate. A lawmaker’s effort to adjourn the session early was met with a decided “no, it’s business as usual” from legislative leadership, though a few days later the Governor announced closure of the Capitol to the public. The legislature on March 16 finally announced that it will recess by March 23 after it passes the state budget.
Mississippi, Vermont, and West Virginia
What’s to say about these bills except 1) they were not genuine adoptee rights bills; and 2) they died quickly and quietly, without any hearings. West Virginia died first in the Health and Human Resources Committee, followed by Mississippi’s two bills in Judiciary, and then most recently Vermont’s discriminatory bill in the House Committee on Human Services.