Two bills have now been filed with the New York State Assembly and Senate. The first bill filed was S2222, which is Senator Andrew Lanza’s bill that is nearly identical to last session’s clean bill. It’s not a bill that NYARC has been working on specifically, though there are similar provisions, obviously because NYARC’s partners have been involved since 2017 in making sure clean bills do what is necessary in New York (for example: specifically addressing birth certificates handled by New York City as well as by New York State).
Assembly Member Michael Benedetto has also introduced a bill. It is not a clean bill, as it requires alteration of the OBC by printing adoption facts and language on the original birth certificate (and a nearly identical bill in the senate, S2492, appears to be its companion).
Here’s what A2691/S2492 also does (and the bill’s text is here if you want to read it yourself):
- It primarily uses New York adoption law—not the state’s vital records law—to release an original birth certificate upon request to an adoptee or that adoptee’s “lawful descendant” (though oddly not specifically requiring an adoptee to be deceased before a descendant may request it). Amending only the adoption law—which is controlled by courts—will likely create issues of continued court control over OBCs, which is why the bill has initially been referred to the Assembly’s Committee on the Judiciary.
- It requires the following language to be printed on all original birth certificates that are released, no matter what the adoptee prefers or wishes (and no matter if the adoptee has endured an abusive adoptive relationship):I certify that the record above is a copy of the original birth record of _________(insert birth name), who was adopted by _________ (adoptive parent) and _________ (adoptive parent, if two) on _________ (adoption decree date).
- It does not address birth certificates held and managed by specific local governments, most importantly the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene.
- It does not specifically and definitively authorize any department of health to release an original birth certificate, nor does it amend vital records law to remove existing language that specifically seals and makes OBCs unavailable to adult adoptees. No procedure is outlined as to where or to whom an adult adoptee applies for an OBC and this could mean an adoptee’s application is through the court system.
- While the bill says it is “not necessary” for a court to review an “application” for an OBC, such language—combined with keeping the bill within the adoption court system and not within vital records— could readily be interpreted to allow a court to review an application when a court or state or local official feels it is appropriate to review it. That is, it may not be “necessary” but it could be allowed.
- It allows the adoptive parents of a minor adoptee to request and obtain the original birth certificate, no matter if the adoption is “open” or “closed.” This will certainly give fuel to opponents (with good reason this time) who claim that releasing an OBC changes closed adoptions into open ones. This flaw and others are likely fatal flaws that may make the bill already dead on arrival.
NYARC has no official position on S2222 (Lanza’s bill) or A2691 (Benedetto’s bill). We are instead awaiting the release of Assembly Member David Weprin’s bill and the announcement of that bill’s senate sponsor. Once all bills are available for review, NYARC will endorse an approach and ask our supporters and allies to join us in supporting that endorsed bill.
Finally, if you see people on social media claiming that NYARC supports or doesn’t support a bill (or saying crazy things about NYARC or its partners), check with us first before believing anything. We’ll always post updates here and on Facebook so you know where we stand and what our positions are. If we haven’t specifically endorsed a bill, we are not considered a supporter of that bill.