We are all a story.
We all have a beginning, a middle and an end.
And we all deserve to know our own story.
Our earliest chapters, of course, are not based on memory, but on oral history and pieces of paper. It’s easy for most of us to take our birth certificates for granted.
One’s life story becomes a mystery, though, in the absence of an original birth certificate.
Once upon a time, every American who was adopted had unrestricted access to their own records. That changed in 1935 for various reasons. Some birth parents wanted to shield their identities. Some adoptive families sought protections as well.
Related laws splintered by state. Once lawmakers started steering the narratives, the plots became even more byzantine. In some cases, individuals could chase their identities through the courts by filing petitions.
Lawmakers in Hartford have been trying to rectify matters for adoptees. Five years ago, Gov. Dannel P. Malloy signed into law a bill allowing adoptees born after Oct. 1, 1983, to be able to access their original records.
A similar measure landed on the governor’s desk a few years earlier, but was vetoed by M. Jodi Rell, Malloy’s predecessor. Some lawmakers of a decade ago expressed concern that more transparency could lead to more abortions.
Legislators are now trying to offer a remedy for those born before Oct. 1, 1983. It was on that date that Connecticut adoption forms added a clause permitting the disclosure of birth parents’ identities.
Earlier this week, the Judiciary Committee sent the bill back to the Senate by a vote of 26-10.
It’s failed to gain traction in the past. Though the bill doesn’t grab a lot of headlines, it remains a divisive issue.
State Rep. Doug Dubitsky, R-Chaplin, said, “This is the one bill that I have received more emotional testimony on — both sides — than almost any other.”
There are multiple perspectives. Catholic Charities testified against the bill in an effort to shield promises of confidentiality made in closed adoptions.
But times have changed since 1935, and since 1983. Databases allow individuals to trace their family history across generations. Tracking genealogy isn’t just a matter of curiosity; it allows individuals to find out more about medical histories.
In other words, the most intimate details of the lives of some people are in the hands of legislators. They are denied their bloodline, medical histories, even their original birth name.
Some promises have to be broken.
This can all change with passage of the bill, though original birth certificates would still come at a price ($65 per copy to be specific).
We encourage lawmakers to permit logic to triumph over emotions on this issue. Some other states are fumbling, crafting flawed legislation that can only add to the torment of adoptees. Connecticut is close to getting it right.
Only one person should hold the right to a birth certificate. It is the first chapter of their story.