Vermont Representative Kathryn Webb introduced H.629 last month. While H.629 attempts to remove date-based restrictions for pre-1986 Vermont adoptees, it still gives birth parents the right to veto the release of an adopted person’s original birth certificate by filing a request for nondisclosure. H.629 is not a good bill.
The bill was referred to the House Committee on Judiciary, which had its first meeting with witness testimony on February 9. Witnesses included the bill’s main sponsor, the committee’s legislative counsel, and the Vermont Adoption Registry’s coordinator. A second committee meeting took place on February 11 and included the committee’s former chair who worked on passing Vermont’s current restrictive law in 1996, as well as a local adoption attorney.
You might notice a key voice was missing from the room: adopted people whose civil right to be treated equally under the law is immediately at stake. Ellie Lane, Rebekah Henson, Rebecca Dragon, and Mary Anna King took immediate action, formed the Vermont Adoptee Rights Working Group, and joined the coalition as a core partner, along with Adoptee Rights Law Center. We contacted the committee to express the vital need for adopted people, specifically adoptees born and based in Vermont, to be given a primary voice on the bill. Our messages were initially filed away as “Public Comment” on the bill and our requests to speak before the committee as expert witnesses were denied while committee members continued to discuss adopted people as existential threats to our own relatives, likely to “disrupt” their lives by “showing up on doorsteps” demanding unwanted contact if given the same right as all other adults to access our own vital records.
We took to Facebook and Twitter, and letters of support came flooding in from adopted people and birth mothers across the country. In response, Judiciary Committee Assistant Amber Burke compiled a summary of written testimonies for committee members to review, calling attention to the growing demand for adoptee voices at the table.
Thanks to everyone’s efforts, Ellie Lane, Rebecca Dragon, Rebekah Henson, Gregory Luce, and Marley Greiner of Bastard Nation testified at committee meetings on February 15 and 16. The committee meetings are available on YouTube:
The coalition is committed to replacing the current draft of H.629 with new language (or a substitute bill) to make it an unrestricted equal rights bill that gives all adopted people the right to request and receive a copy of their own original birth certificate, like all other adult Vermonters, leaving no Vermont adopted people behind.