It was an eventful and productive past week for the New England Coalition for Adoptee Rights in Vermont! Here are where things currently stand with H.629, as well as what to look for in the coming weeks.
Impacted Vermont adoptees and Vermont adoptee constituents formalized the Vermont Adoptee Rights Working Group and began the task of opposing H.629, plus working toward a genuine equal rights bill in the state. VARWG has now joined the New England Adoptee Rights Coalition as a founding partner. You can read about the people behind VARWG here, including Nutmeg, the new coalition mascot.
Getting Adoptee Voices to the Table
After coalition members successfully rallied to be heard, Gregory Luce, whose Adoptee Rights Law Center is a core partner of the coalition, spoke to the Vermont House Judiciary Committee on February 15. He provided legislators with a better understanding of the complicated process adopted Vermonters must currently go through to obtain a copy of their own vital records.
Here’s how that process currently works in Vermont.
He also provided important context on the myth of secrecy in adoption—that all adult adopted people born in the U.S. used to have the unrestricted right to request and receive copies of their own original birth record until Vermont and other states began passing legislation in the 1940s that took that right away, supposedly to protect adopted people from their own birth parents— not the other way around. He also demonstrated how Vermont is currently an outlier in New England by keeping restrictions like disclosure vetoes in place.
Impacted Adoptees and Adoptee Rights Advocates from VARWG and Bastard Nation
On February 16, Ellie Lane, Rebekah Henson, Rebecca Dragon (representing Adoptees for Choice and People for Ethical Adoption Reform), and Marley Greiner (representing Bastard Nation) delivered powerful testimony on H.629 as long-time advocates and as adopted people directly impacted by this issue in Vermont and other states that hold their original vital records.
Their words made a clear impact: Republican Vice Chair Thomas Burditt declared that, “barring any testimony that’s just going to blow me out of the water, I’m certainly supporting opening up access to these birth certificates.” He also shared that his own father was born at Lund, a prominent Vermont adoption agency, when the adoption agency operated as a maternity home. “Luckily we have his birth certificate,” Rep. Burditt said, “and I get kind of emotional thinking about what if I didn’t have that piece of information as a child or being able to pass along information to my kids? That weighs heavy on me and I didn’t even go through it!”
Wednesday’s meeting in the House Judiciary Committee was incredibly productive and hopeful.
The biggest takeaway: Committee Chair Maxine Grad requested that we send new language to make H.629 a genuine equal rights bill that will give adopted people born in Vermont the unrestricted right to request and receive the original version of their birth certificate. We are beyond thrilled with this outcome and have already sent a bill draft to the committee for consideration.
- Rebecca Dragon’s written testimony
- Marley Greiner’s written testimony
- Full discussion—including Ellie’s and Rebekah’s testimonies—on the House Judiciary Committee’s YouTube channel
The Coming Week
The House committee will hear additional testimony next week on Wednesday, February 23, with a focus on birthparents and search angels, as it continues consideration of H.629, including possible discussion of a new bill. Stay tuned!