With more than a dozen adoptee-focused bills initially introduced this year, only five active state bills remain, in addition to the Adoptee Citizenship Act in Congress. Here’s where things stand. Updated May 22, 2021.
It is still early in the 117th Congressional session, and the Adoptee Citizenship Act of 2021 is active and gaining support. This incredibly important bill would eliminate an age-based restriction in current law that denies automatic citizenship to intercountry adopted people who were adopted by US citizen parents but were born prior to March 1983. Advocacy efforts are being led by numerous organizations, including Adoptees for Justice as well as the National Alliance for Adoptee Equality.
The Arizona House passed a discriminatory bill in February, and the bill was thought dead until the legislature extended its session. HB1070 will create a new donut hole in the law by denying any rights to an original birth certificate to Arizona-born adoptees whose dates of birth were between 1968 and 2021. Update: HB2070, the discriminatory bill, has been resurrected and is being considered in the Rules Committee on May 24. More info here.
Connecticut is making solid progress in closing a current hole in its law that the legislature enacted in 2015, creating different classes of adopted people who could request and obtain their own original birth record. HB6105 would eliminate the current date-based restriction for adopted people born prior to October 1983 (adoptees born prior to 1945 may also have greater rights). The bill recently passed the House on a largely bipartisan 115-28 vote. The Connecticut legislature is scheduled to adjourn on June 9, and the bill is now in the Senate along with hundreds of other bills awaiting action on the floor calendar.
Similarly, Massachusetts is working to close a donut hole in its current law that discriminates against adopted people born between 1974 and 2008, who do not have a right to request and obtain their own original birth records. It is still reasonably early in the Massachusetts session, and a recent joint committee hearing on the bill went very well. We expect to see the bill pass through the House (which it has done in the past) and then advocacy efforts will once again be concentrated on getting it through the Senate and to Governor Charlie Baker.
Advocates in Rhode Island, who in 2011 restored unrestricted rights to adopted people who are at least 25 years of age, are now working to lower that age to 18 and provide rights to descendants to request the original birth record if the adopted person is deceased. The bill also makes the original birth record available upon request to the adopted person at the time of birth, effective for all births after June 30, 2021. The bills are alive but are currently awaiting action after receiving hearings in committee.
Texas has an unrestricted equal rights bill that flew through the House of Representatives, ultimately passing 144-1. HB1386/SB1877 is simple and restores a right that all Texas-born adoptees had until 1957: the right to request and obtain your own original birth certificate. It is facing an impending deadline to be heard and reported out of a Senate committee before it can be considered by the full senate. Support for the bill is broad, and adoptee rights organizations are working closely together to push for the bill’s passage. The Texas Adoptee Rights Coalition and Support Texas Adoptee Rights, for example, have issued a joint statement pledging cooperation in advocacy. A recent letter to Senator Joan Huffman, chair of the committee where the bill must be heard, was also endorsed by a broad range of adoptee rights and adoption-related organizations, including Ft. Worth-based Gladney Center for Adoption.
Iowa has enacted a discriminatory bill, effective May 19, 2021. The bill uses a corrupt contact preference form to allow birthparents to request redaction of their personally identifiable information on an adoptee’s birth record. A FAQ about the bill is here.
Tennessee has enacted a bill that repeals the state’s unconstitutional “contact veto,” along with the registry associated with the veto. It goes into effect on July 1, 2022, and efforts are underway in the state to notify anyone who had previously filed a contact veto with the registry.
Pretty Much Dead
An odd Assembly bill in New York, which conflicts with the recently passed equal rights bill, was considered dead on arrival, and it is highly unlikely it will move out of committee or even be considered. It has no companion bill in the Senate.
Idaho’s H59, which was scuttled at a Senate committee hearing and tagged for further amendment, is all but dead. In a wild and record-breaking Idaho legislative session, the Senate has adjourned but the House has only recessed, meaning it is technically possible for the House to call all legislators back into session later in the year. H59, as introduced, would have made the right to request an original birth record prospective only for persons adopted after June 30, 2021. Additional discriminatory amendments, however, were on the table after a hearing in a senate committee went off the rails.
Unrestricted equal rights bills in Minnesota, Maryland, and Florida, are dead. The bills would have restored the right of adult adoptees to request and obtain a copy of their own birth records. The Maryland bill, supported by the Capitol Coalition for Adoptee Rights, was reported out of committee but was defeated by vote in the Maryland Senate. The Minnesota bill was withdrawn after opposition in a senate committee, and the Florida bills stood no chance of advancement and did not receive hearings—they are likely to be reintroduced next session with discriminatory amendments, as has been the practice of Florida advocates and legislators in the past.
Other states where various bills have died include Indiana, Mississippi, Vermont, and West Virginia. A map and description of all state-level adoptee rights legislation is here.
About Gregory D. Luce
Adoptees United Inc. | President
Gregory Luce is an attorney and DC-born adoptee. He is the founder of the Adoptee Rights Law Center, which provides resources and legal advocacy for adult adoptees on issues of identity and U.S. citizenship.