Bridgeport Mayor Bill Finch tried Tuesday to pressure the Senate to give adoptees access to their original birth certificates and the names of their biological parents.
The legislation awaiting action in the Senate passed the House last week. It would allow adoptees born after Oct. 1, 1983, access to their original birth records. In Connecticut and most other states, adoptees receive amended birth certificates that omit the parents’ names.
At a Tuesday afternoon press conference in the Legislative Office Building, Finch, a former state senator who was adopted himself, said the current law perpetuates a type of discrimination.
“We’re being treated like second class citizens and we have been since 1974 in most of the United States,” he said. “. . . The government does not have a right to take my identity from me and put it under lock and key.”
Finch compared the issue to the debate over marriage equality. When he was in the state Senate, the legislature adopted Connecticut’s civil union law for same sex couples. He said he almost did not vote for the bill.
“. . . because I know equality when I see it and that’s not equality, but we voted for it as an incremental step,” he said.
Finch said the adoption birth certificate bill before the Senate represents a similar incremental step. The bill reaches back as far as 1983 when biological parents began signing a form acknowledging the child may, as an adult, access documents that could identify them.
It was negotiated to ease the concerns of lawmakers who feel the change violates the trust of birth mothers who expected the state to respect their privacy.
“It’s a step in the right direction,” Finch said. “We are not adoptees, we’re citizens, we’re mayors, we’re legislators, we’re owners of businesses.”
With less than two days left in the session, it’s unclear whether the bill will see a floor vote this year. Although proponents say they’re confident they have the votes to pass the legislation, Senate leaders are wary of raising any bill that could spark a lengthy debate as the May 7 deadline approaches.
The bill has the potential for a lengthy debate. Although Senate Majority Leader Martin Looney said he personally supports the bill, Senate Minority Leader John McKinney has attached several amendments to the legislation.
McKinney, who has opposed similar legislation in the past, said Monday he had not finished reading this year’s bill. He said he filed amendments on it to give opponents in the Senate time to get a better grasp of what changes were made to the adoption process in 1983 which formed the basis of the House compromise.
“This is just a way to take a breath so a number of us can read it,” he said. “I don’t want birth mothers who made the choice to give a child away for adoption believing they would not be contacted to be contacted . . . What was the birth mother led to believe and told when she was giving a child away for adoption?”
Although he has been opposed the legislation, McKinney said he understood a major concern for many adoptees who want access to their family medical history.
“Even for adoptees before 1983, there should be a way to access medical records. Without question, that’s extremely important to know whether your biological mother or father had some kind of genetic disease that could be passed on,” he said.
It’s an issue Carol Goodyear, vice president of the adoption advocacy group Access Connecticut, came face-to-face with last year when after a mammogram, she asked to be tested for predisposition to breast cancer.
“The radiologist said ‘yes, that was fine,’ I could have the gene test but because I do not have my biological medical history, the test would cost me $3,000. For the non-adopted population in Connecticut, the test cost zero,” she said. “I left there very angry, very mad, very hurt, and sick and tired of being treated like a second class citizen.”