Overview of state-level legislation that impacts U.S.-born adoptees in the United States. Legislation related to intercountry adoptees is here.
Map and Descriptions
2021 Adoptee Rights Legislation (Domestic)
Active State Bills
Summaries and analysis provided by Gregory D. Luce.
H2294/S1440. Bill that removes a date-based restrictions that creates a “donut hole” in the state for adoptees born between 1974 and 2008. This is the same short and sweet bill (14 words long) from at least four prior sessions. It closes a date-based loophole in current Massachusetts law, eliminating the discriminatory provision that denies an unrestricted right to the OBC for adoptees who were born between 1974 and 2008. Getting the bill through the Massachusetts Senate has always been the primary obstacle. The bills have been referred to the Joint Committee on Public Health, which heard the bills on May 10. Formal sessions of the Massachusetts legislature are scheduled to end November 17, 2021.
SB483. As introduced, provides an unrestricted right, at age 18, for an adoptee to request and obtain the “impounded” pre-adoption birth certificate. Wisconsin and its legislators have a mixed history on the issue of original birth records, agreeing in the past to compromised legislation that would reinforce the state’s current system of consent-based release of the OBC. This bill, as introduced, would provide a simple and unrestricted right to request and obtain the original “impounded” birth certificate at age 18. It further divorces current law from Wisconsin’s complex intermediary system that depends on searching for birthparents to obtain consent for release of the OBC. A hearing on the bill was originally set for September 2, 2021, before the Senate Committee on Human Services, Children and Families, but the hearing was recently cancelled. It is expected to be rescheduled, though Senator Andre Jacque, the senate sponsor, is currently hospitalized and on a ventilator, reported to be related to COVID-induced pneumonia.
SB524: Purports to allow adult children of deceased adoptees to request and obtain the adoptee’s original birth certificate, subject to the state’s current restrictive law. This bill popped up after cancellation of the hearing in SB483 (above). It would provide a right for “offspring” of a deceased adopted person to request the adoptee’s OBC (plus “any available identifying information” about the adoptee’s birthparents), but only if the adoptee and the adoptee’s identified birthparents are all deceased. The bill also appears structured so that it applies only to children of adoptees who were adopted in Wisconsin—and not necessarily to adoptees who were born in Wisconsin but adopted in another state. It’s a mess of a bill.
Enacted into Law
HB2921/SB1831. [ENACTED] Bill that replaces a previously vetoed bill. It creates a donut hole, excluding and discriminating against adoptees born between June 1968 and 2022. Late-introduced bills late in a long-running, bizarre, and hyperpartisan Arizona legislative session. The bills “replaced” HB2070, a previously vetoed bill discussed below. SB1831 “repassed” the Senate by a vote of 17-13, meaning it actually lost additional support since the Governor’s veto of HB2070. It subsequently passed the House on a vote of 49-7 (4 not voting), and Governor Doug Ducey signed the bill into law on June 29. It becomes effective September 28, 2021, and the date-based requests for the OBC may be made beginning January 1, 2022.
The bills are discriminatory and exclude adopted people who are born between June 20, 1968, and December 31, 2021, creating a donut hole for the vast majority of Arizona adoptees. Those whose births fall into the 53-year donut-hole period will have no right, apart from securing a court order, to obtain their own birth records. The vast majority of adoptee rights advocates and allies oppose the bill, which has little support from Arizona-born adoptees. The bill was driven by a conservative anti-abortion organization, though Heritage Arizona and the Adoptee Rights Coalition also supported and cheerleaded the discriminatory exclusions contained in the bill. The Adoptees United board, along with 37 other state and national organizations, endorsed opposition to the bills.
HB2010 [ENACTED]. Requires that supplemental information added to an adoptee’s file be sent to the adoptee. This bill involves de-identified “supplemental information” that a birthparent or any member of a birth family may provide to the agency or person responsible for the adoption. If such supplemental information is received, the adoption agency or person who receives the information must notify the adoptee, if at least 18 years of age, or the adoptive parents if the adoptee is a minor, of the receipt of the information. The bill also carries an emergency measure regarding foster care reentry for youth who were discharged from foster care on account of COVID-19 restrictions. The bill passed both chambers, and Governor Doug Ducey signed it into law on March 18.
S250A/H6189B: [ENACTED] Lowers the age from 25 to 18 for adoptees who wish to request their OBCs. These bills are now significantly scaled back from the originals. Two identical substitute bills now simply lower the current age to request an original birth certificate from 25 to 18. As introduced, both H6189 and S250 were more expansive and would have made the OBC available from the date of birth for adoptees who are born on or after July 1, 2021, plus add the right of direct-line descendants to request a copy of the OBC if the adopted person is deceased. A Senate substitute bill, reported favorably from the Judiciary Committee, lowers the age from 25 to 18. It unanimously passed the full Senate on June 29 and the full House on July 1. Governor Daniel McKee signed the bill into law, which has immediate effect.
HB6105 [ENACTED]: Unrestricted equal rights bill that closes a discriminatory date-based loophole in current law. HB6105 was introduced by the Joint Committee on Planning and Development, a committee co-chaired by the two primary authors of prior identical bills: Senator Steve Cassano and Representative Cristin McCarthy Vahey. The bill eliminates the loophole in current Connecticut law that discriminates against adoptees whose adoptions occurred prior to October 1, 1983. For these adoptees, it takes a court order to obtain a copy of your own original birth certificate. HB6105 was reported out favorably from the Joint Committee on Planning and Development and went to the floor on March 16. After a housekeeping amendment on the floor and the rejection of a discriminatory amendment offered at the last minute, the bill passed the House 115-28 on May 4, with 8 representatives not voting. It passed the Senate on May 25 by a vote of 27-8, with one senator absent. Governor Ned Lamont signed the bill into law on June 7. Effective July 1, 2021, Connecticut will become the tenth state to restore—for all adopted people—an unrestricted right to request and obtain their own original birth records. Congratulations to Access Connecticut, the state advocacy group responsible for passage of this unrestricted equal rights bill.
SF589/HF855 [ENACTED] Discriminatory law that creates redaction rights through a corrupt contact preference form. Iowa has tried to enact a bill over the past few years, each time moving forward but either starting out or ending up with a discriminatory bill. These bills in 2021 simply kicked off with discriminatory provisions, including a corrupt contact preference form that a birthparent may file stating that “I do not want to be contacted. I request that my personally identifiable information be redacted from the noncertified copy of the original certificate of birth and my contact preference form.” The House Judiciary Committee recommended passage and the bill was renumbered and introduced as HF855 by the Ways and Means Committee. It passed the Iowa House on April 13 on a vote of 91-0. The Senate Judiciary Committee recommended SF559 for passage on March 3, and the Ways and Means Committee subsequently approved it for passage. The Senate on April 21 passed the bill, 46-0, after substituting HF855 and adding an amendment regarding the collection of fees. The House agreed to the amendment and, after an extended legislative session, Governor Kim Reynolds signed the bill into law on May 19. The Facebook group Iowa Adoptee and Family Coalition supported the birthparent redaction rights in the law, as did the Adoptee Rights Coalition. A FAQ on the new law and how it works is available here.
HB62/SB723 [ENACTED]: Removes contact veto provisions in current law. Tennessee is not an unrestricted rights state. It has three provisions that are problematic: 1) redaction of records in certain limited cases; 2) a $150 fee to request records; and 3) a highly problematic and likely unconstitutional “contact veto.” The bills, sponsored by the Republican Majority Leader in the Tennessee House, removes the contact veto and contact notice registry provisions. While the bill is hard to review because of way it is drafted, I have compiled how the proposed changes fit into existing law. Last session near-identical bills were set to be heard in each chambers’ Judiciary Committees, but COVID-19 led to deferral of all legislative action. The only difference with the bill this session is a requirement to inform people who registered a contact veto that the law is changing. It was reported out favorably from the House Subcommittee on Children & Family Affairs, the full Civil Justice Committee and the Finance Committee, and now moves to the House floor, where it is on the regular calendar for consideration on March 25. The companion Senate bill, SB0723, was recommended unanimously for passage by the Senate Judiciary Committee on February 23, and subsequently passed the full Senate, 32-0. On March 25, SB723 was substituted for HB62 and passed the full House, 88-0. Governor Bill Lee signed the bill on April 7, and the bulk of the new law now becomes effective on July 1, 2022.
The 2021 Arizona legislative session can best described as unpredictable and hyperpartisan, particularly within the Republican party. While HB2070 (below) was vetoed by the Governor for largely political purposes unrelated to the bill’s content, the already long-extended Arizona legislative session continues. While HB2070 died, late introduced bills replaced it and SB1831, listed above, was enacted.
HB2070 [VETOED] Bill that creates a donut hole, excluding and discriminating against adoptees whose adoptions were finalized between 1968 and the bill’s effective date. While HB2070 started out as a straightforward unrestricted equal rights bill, author and Republican Representative Bret Roberts offered an amendment at the first House hearing on the bill. The bill, as amended, now excludes adopted people whose adoptions were finalized between June 20, 1968, and the effective date of the act, creating a donut hole for the vast majority of Arizona adoptees. Advocates in Arizona did not object at the hearing to the inclusion of the amendment, and it is likely that little can be done to save the bill at this point. The Judiciary Committee hearing in the House was live streamed and video from the hearing is available online. It was ultimately approved by the House on consent motion, 59-0, and the Health and Human Services Committee in the Senate also unanimously recommended passage. While it sat in the Rules committee for months, it was reported out of committee on May 24 and calendared for vote. Though multiple action alerts to oppose the bill ultimately led to opposition on the Senate floor, the bill passed 18-11 (1 absent). On May 28, however, Governor Doug Ducey vetoed the bill, along with 21 others, largely for reasons related to forcing the legislature to produce a budget.
SB1700/HB1333: Unrestricted equal rights legislation that provides a copy of the original birth certificate upon request to the registrant at age 18. Florida has had a tortured history of attempts to modify its restrictive law. These bills, however, are the first bills in the last few years to start out with an unrestricted right to request and obtain a copy of the original birth certificate. They also eliminate an intermediary process and repeals the state’s “good cause” provision in adoption law for petitioning the court for adoption records, including the OBC. The legislation also applies to anyone who had a prior original birth certificate sealed after a paternity determinations or other court-ordered substitution. Senator Vic Torres and Representative Emily Slosberg are the primary authors. The senate bill has been referred to the Children, Families, and Elder Affairs Committee as well as the Judiciary Committee. The house bill is now in the Civil Justice & Property Rights Subcommittee. The bills had little chance to proceed without the addition of discriminatory provisions. They each died in committee.
H0059. Bill that will release the original birth certificate to adult adopted people but only for adoptions finalized on or after July 1, 2021. This is a simple but discriminatory bill that has very little practical effect, as it applies only to future adoptions, the vast majority of which are typically already “open” adoptions. The sponsors of the bill stated repeatedly that they are committed to return the following legislative session to make the law retroactive if there is sufficient support to do so. Rep. Julianne Young is the primary sponsor. HB59 was reported out favorably from the Judiciary, Rules & Administration Committee on March 1, sending the bill to the House floor, where it passed 67-0. Nevertheless, it failed to advance by a 4-4 vote in the Judiciary and Rules Committee and was referred to what is known in Idaho Senate rules as the 14th Order on the Senate calendar, where bills sit for possible amendments before a call to the floor for vote. Judiciary Committee members appear to be requesting amendments requiring the consent of birthparents before releasing an adopted person’s original birth record, or what are known as “disclosure vetoes.” Representatives of the Adoptee Rights Coalition have been supportive of Idaho’s discriminatory bill and reportedly are working to amend it to add discriminatory provisions. After numerous recesses during the longest-ever Idaho legislative session the Senate adjourned sine die on May 12, and with it H59 is considered dead for the session. Note: the Idaho House voted only to recess, meaning it could reconvene in 2021 and force the Senate to return as well. The legislature is in unchartered territory with these developments.
SB268. Bill that modifies current existing corrupt contact preference forms but otherwise preserves discriminatory vetoes for adoptions finalized prior to July 1, 2021. This bill, in a state that has implemented an absolute disaster of a framework for obtaining an original birth certificate, does three things: 1) preserves existing discriminatory birthparent vetoes over release of the OBC, extending them through June 30, 2021; 2) eliminates the current corrupt contact preference form that allows a birthparent to veto release of the OBC, but only for adoptions finalized after June 30, 2021; and 3) eliminates the “zombie veto,” which allows previously filed vetoes to extend beyond a birthparent’s death. The former Indiana Adoption Network (IAN) appears to be behind the bill. State Republican Senator Mike Young has authored the bill and it was reported out as DO PASS from the Judiciary Committee after representatives from the IAN testified in favor of the bill, stating that it “reflected modern cultural changes in adoption.” It passed the Indiana Senate by a vote of 27-20, with 3 absent, but died in the House in the Judiciary Committee, without receiving a hearing.
SB331/HB999. Unrestricted rights bill with genuine contact preference form and elimination of prior disclosure vetoes. Maryland instituted a system in 2000 that provided for release of the OBC, but only to adoptees 21 years of age or older who were adopted on or after January 1, 2000. Current law also provides for birth parent and adoptee disclosure vetoes. SB331, which is identical to a bill from the 2020 session, eliminates this discriminatory framework and provides for the unrestricted right to request and obtain the OBC. The bill allows for genuine contact preference forms for both birthparents and adoptees, allows a birthparent to request and obtain the OBC in addition to the adult adoptee at age 18, and sunsets the few prior disclosure vetoes on file, beginning October 1, 2021, converting them into contact preferences indicating that no contact is preferred. Maryland Adoptee Rights has been the leader on this issue in Maryland, and it is also part of the Capitol Coalition for Adoptee Rights, a regional coalition formed to support legislation in DC, Maryland, and Virginia. HB0999 is in the House Health and Government Operations Committee. Initially thought dead in Senate committee after a January hearing, SB0331 moved out of the Judicial Proceedings Committee, but the bill died on second reading on the senate floor after the Senate voted 31-16 against approval of the committee report. The debate on the bill was particularly hard to watch. Except for those who spoke in favor of the bill, opponents effectively demonized adoptees for the audacity to request their own birth records.
SF328/HF470: Unrestricted equal rights bills that dismantle Minnesota’s forty-plus-year history of compromise. SF328/HF470 are equal rights bills that, with minor tweaks, are identical to bills filed in the 2019-2020 legislative sessions. Sen. Jim Carlson, a DFL (Democratic) legislator, is the author of the Senate bill. Republican Rep. Dave Baker is the House author. The bills constitute a necessary step toward dismantling a complex intermediary system that has existed in Minnesota since 1977. After a March 9 hearing in the Senate’s Civil Law and Data Practices Policy Committee, Senator Carlson withdrew SF328 in part to avoid discriminatory amendments and to keep the bill active during Minnesota’s two-year legislative process. While it’s possible the House bill may see additional action before adjournment in 2021, the bills as a whole are not considered viable for the remainder of the 2021 budgetary session. Minnesota Coalition for Adoption Reform is the primary organization behind the effort, in collaboration with Minnesota-based Adoptee Rights Law Center.
SB2205: Provides the OBC upon request to an adoptee 18 years after the adoption, overriding any prior disclosure vetoes. Republican Senator Chuck Younger introduced a bill that will release the OBC upon an adopted person’s request—but not at age 18. Rather, the request may be made 18 years after the adoption. This could mean that some older adoptees may not get their OBC upon request until their twenties and, potentially, into their thirties. The bill specifically overrides any prior birthparent disclosure vetoes over identifying information, stating that the vetoes do not affect “an adoptee who is entitled to a copy of the adoptee’s original and cancelled birth certificate under Section 93-17-21(3).” The Senate Judiciary A Committee unanimously recommended DO PASS for SB2205 on a voice vote and the full Senate subsequently passed the bill 46-0. It moved to the House and was referred to the Judiciary A Committee, which struck the language in the bill and substituted language from HB190 (see Dead Bills below). The move was intended to force a conference committee between the Senate and House if the amended House bill passes the full House. On March 10, however, SB2205 in the House was “laid on the table” and, according to its sponsor, effectively killed for the session.
HB190. Identifying information bill that attempts to sunset prior birthparent disclosure vetoes. Mississippi currently uses a “centralized adoption records file” to control release of identifying information, which includes the adoptee’s original birth certificate. The current system allows birthparents to file affidavits that allow or deny release of such identifying information. HB635 adds a new provision indicating that an adoptee at age 21 may obtain “unrestricted” identifying information and that a birthparent affidavit “shall not be effective against an adoptee who is twenty-one (21) years of age or older.” It’s not fully clear if the bill applies retroactively or prospectively to birthparent affidavits. In addition, requests must be made to a licensed adoption agency as part of post-adoption services, with a fee of no more than $100.00 per birthparent (a request for identifying information relates to each birthparent). Moreover, the agency must search for and attempt to locate birthparents to inform them of the adoptee’s request, though the birthparents cannot object to release of the information nor is the release of identifying information affected by the failure to locate a birthparent. The bill is identical to one introduced by Rep. Lee Yancey in the 2020 session, who is the principal author again this session. While HB190 died earlier in Committee, a strike all motion substituted the language of HB190 into SB2205, along with a “reverse repealer,” which forces a conference committee if the bill now passes the full House. The debate on SB2205, along with the motion to strike all with the addition of a reverse repealer, is available here.
A5141. Strange bill that conflicts with the state’s new adoptee rights law. This bill is hard to figure out, primarily because it does not require anyone to do anything. It is a reprise of a bill that existed prior to New York’s newly effective equal rights law. It purports to give adult adoptees “access” to the pre-adoption birth certificate and to extend that access to adoptive parents if the adopted person is younger than 18 years of age. Yet the bill does not indicate whether “access” is through the court or through the New York city or state departments of health, nor if any agency is required to do anything. It also requires the “facts of the adoption” to be printed on the adoptee’s pre-adoption birth record, creating a Frankensteinian integrated birth certificate, something that the vast majority of adopted people do not want. I consider the bill dead on arrival, with no support, and have now listed it as a dead bill. While it technically could move out of the Assembly Judiciary Committee, the likelihood of that development is next to nil.
HB1386/SB1877: Simple unrestricted equal rights bills that provide the OBC upon request at age 18. Texas has every other year legislative sessions, and these bills are a continuation of longstanding equality efforts that began many sessions ago. The House bill, authored by Republican Rep. Cody Harris, is simple and straightforward and provides the original birth record to an adoptee if requested at age 18 or older. It also allows an adult descendant, adult sibling, surviving spouse, or adoptive parent to request the OBC if the adopted person is deceased. It was filed on January 26, 2021. Senator Nathan Johnson, whose district makes up the northern part of Dallas County, introduced the Senate bill on March 12. The Texas Adoptee Rights Coalition, in unprecedented collaboration with Support Texas Adoptee Rights (STAR), is working toward enactment of the bills as introduced. HB1386 is in the House Public Health Committee where it was heard on March 17 and reported out favorably by a vote of 10-0 on March 24. It passed second reading on the House floor and is set for third reading and final passage as early as April 9. SB1877 has been referred to the Senate Committee on Jurisprudence, a favorable committee for the bill’s referral. Despite multiople action alerts as part of a final push to get the bill considered and out of committee for consideration by the Senate, it died in committee.
H.222: Bill that creates a study committee to look at releasing identifying information to some adopted people in the state. Ah, the study bill. Within a week of an adoptee-focused opinion piece appearing in an online Vermont publication, Rep. Kathryn Webb has introduced a bill that proposes a study committee to examine the issue of releasing “identifying information” in cases involving adoptions finalized prior to July 1, 1986. Last session, Rep. Webb introduced what I then called an “odd duck” bill that provided for release of information but only if the adoptee or birthparent has been deceased for more than fifty years. H.222, this year’s bill, has been referred to the House Judiciary Committee. It died after not being reported out of committee by deadline.
SB50. Discriminatory bill that creates a birthparent right to redact information on the OBC. SB50 is identical to prior bills that have been introduced the last few sessions in West Virginia. It is a discriminatory OBC bill that will allow birthparents to file “name redaction requests.” If filed, the request would operate to redact a birthparent’s name on the adoptee’s original birth certificate. The bill died last year without receiving a hearing in committee, as it did in the prior legislative session. It is currently in the Senate Health and Human Resources Committee. Bills must move out of committee by March 28.
HB2943: Bill that requires participation in the state’s mutual consent registry before requesting the OBC at age 21. This was only recently introduced on March 5 in the West Virginia House. The bill requires the use of West Virginia’s existing mutual consent registry—which requires at least one hour of mandatory counseling—as a prerequisite to request the OBC. If the adoptee is unsuccessful in obtaining identifying information through the registry, the bill directs the clerk of court to provide the OBC upon request to an adoptee who is 21 years of age or older. It is unclear how specifically an original birth record would be provided by the court when the record is held by the West Virginia Department of Health, unless it is already in the file managed by the registry process. By use of the registry, the bill would also not apply to persons who were born in West Virginia but adopted in a different state. The bill is now in the House Judiciary Committee where it faces a March 28 deadline for consideration.