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 May 25, 2020.
Note: while I’ve listed these bills as “active” they may in reality be dead, given the primary focus of legislators on COVID-19 business and issues.
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 possible that HR2731 may receive a hearing in the House this session, assuming a pandemic or other political chaos does not interfere. Prospects in the Senate, however, are far less optimistic during a presidential election year.
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 in the Senate on the last day of the session, has yet to be sent to Governor Ron DeSantis. He will have fifteen days to sign or veto the bill once the legislature transmits it to his office. 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. Republican Governor Gary Herbert, a step-parent adoptee himself, signed the bill into law.
Massachusetts, like Connecticut, is 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, and the senate version of the bill recently was moved to the Senate Rules Committee for consideration.
Iowa SF621 simply won’t die. 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 earlier suspended its session but is scheduled to reconvene on June 1.
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. The legislature is now scheduling meetings to consider bills in committee but it looks unlikely any business other than emergency COVID-19 bills will be considered.
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 recessed early but is expected to reconvene in early June. The House bill is also on the Judiciary Committee calendar for consideration on May 26.
Arizona and Minnesota
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 moved to an “on-call” session and later adjourned sine die. 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. While it has technically reconvened in session, only the House has agreed to return to business.
Connecticut is the other loophole state 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 closed on account of COVID-19 and the legislature later adjourned sine die without considering SB113 further.
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. The Maryland legislature is not expected to reconvene until its next session.
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.
Adoptee Rights Law Center and others have opposed this bill, which does not even release an OBC—it releases only a court form. Senate Joint Resolution 1 effectively killed most pending legislation in the 2020 Wisconsin legislative session, including AB579/SB521.