HARTFORD, CT — Adoptees got one step closer to accessing their original birth certificates Monday when the Judiciary Committee voted 26-10 to send the bill back to the Senate.
The bill previously passed the Planning and Development Committee by a 16-6 vote.
In 2014, former Gov. Dannel P. Malloy signed a bill into law that gives 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 biological parents’ names.
That cutoff date was used because that was the date the state changed the adoption form, adding a clause stating that the birth parents’ identities may be disclosed. The form was silent on the subject of identify before that date.
“This is the one bill that I have received more emotional testimony on – both sides – than almost any other,” said Rep. Doug Dubitsky, R-Chaplin, who voted in favor of the legislation.
Also voting in favor was Sen. Alex Bergstein, D-Greenwich. Her argument is that “times have changed, technology has changed the dynamic,” and that legislation needs to acknowledge that fact.
Bergstein told her colleagues that with social media sites such as Ancestry.com people can easily track their geneology in ways that could not be imagined when laws on adoption were first written decades ago.
“A person has a right to their identify,” Bergstein said. “How can that be negotiated away without their consent?
But voting against the bill was Rep. Tom O’Dea, R-New Canaan, who said he couldn’t square voting for the legislation with the fact that prior to 1983 a “woman was told there information would be kept confidential.”
“I feel strongly that we should honor the agreement that was made prior to 1983,” O’Dea said.
During the public hearing on the bill, scores of adopted people submitted testimony in favor of the legislation. In addition advocacy groups also submitted testimony in favor.
The Connecticut chapter President of the National Organization of Women, Cindy Wolfe Boynton, said the current law is one of many that discriminates against women.
“We believe that the current law denying a class of adoptees an equal right to their original birth certificate is one such misguided, supposedly ‘women-protective’ law,” Boynton said. “Rather than protecting woman, it was put in place as part of an oppressive system that denied women choice over their right to parent, and to control their sexuality and their bodies.”
Boynton added: “Furthermore, adult adopted women (and men) are discriminated against by existing law. Against their will and without their consent, they have been deprived of a basic right to know their origins that is enjoyed by all other citizens.”
For Rep. Kim Rose, D-Milford, the issue is personal.
“Ancestry, My Heritage, and 23andMe have sold millions of DNA kits over the past several years. Adoptees are simply looking for answers. I know firsthand, because my mother was adopted,” Rose said in written testimony.
“I grew up as an only child always dreaming of a big family. After finding out my mother had been adopted, I was able to obtain her original birth certificate. Her mother was still alive and we were able to contact her,” Rose said. “She passed away in September of 2017. Her biological father was unknown.”
But through those DNA tests Rose was also able to find out that the man she thought was her father was not her biological father. She has since found her biological father and a large extended family of half-brothers and half-sisters.
“If I had not had access to my mother’s birth certificate, I may never have been able to find the truth,” Rose testified.
A total of 288 pieces of testimony were submitted in support of the legislation.
According to the fiscal note, of the 43,903 adults adopted prior to Oct. 1, 1983, it is anticipated that 48 will make requests for uncertified copies of their original birth certificates annually, resulting in a municipal revenue gain of $3,120. These two changes combined result in a total anticipated municipal revenue gain of approximately $5,395 annually from 83 requests.
But not everyone approves.
There was opposition from Marek Kukulka, chief executive officer of Catholic Charities, Inc., of the Archdiocese of Hartford.
“It is important to consider that agreements had been made with biological parents that ensured confidentiality when adoptions were determined to be ‘closed.’ Biological parents had made this decision based on a variety of individual circumstances at the time,” Kukulka wrote in his testimony. “Therefore, this proposal doesn’t allow for the confidentiality of the biological parents whose understanding was that identifying information would remain confidential.”