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Russell and Laurie, reunited in September, 2001.

Despite the fact that the overwhelming majority of people who were either adopted or who relinquished their children for adoption are in favor of restoring the practice of maintaining access to original birth certificates by adopted citizens, private agencies that benefit from the current adoption model that seals these records are against legislation to return to a system that grants access to the very people whose births these documents record. Re-establishing access to original birth certificates would mean equal treatment under the law for adopted adults. It may also provide information to help answer the normal questions in the minds of people affected by adoption, (although these questions are often answered via other means.) Currently, only six states (New Hampshire, Kansas, Alaska, Oregon, Alabama and Maine) and two U.S. commonwealths (Puerto Rico and the U.S.Virgin Islands) have equal access rights for adopteed persons to view their original birth certificates. This means that in 44 U.S. states, adopted citizens are the only citizens who do not have unfettered access to their original birth certificates. All other citizens, including those given up for adoption but never legally adopted, have the right to view their own actual birth records.

When someone loses family members, or even friends, to death, divorce or a geographical move, it is considered acceptable, normal and even expected that the person grieves. When parents and other family members lose a child to adoption, they are assumed and even expected to "forget it," "get over it" and "move on." Often, those relinquished are looked upon as "ungrateful" for having absolutely natural and normal feelings and thoughts about their biological relatives. The basic familial bond that exists between people of the same blood is somehow expected to have disappeared when adoption occurs.

Sealing birth records creates a situation of inequality. Adoptees are not given the same rights as other citizens; that is, the right to their own original birth certificates. Sealed birth certificates were not always a part of adoption. The practice of sealing records came about at a time when infertility and having a child out of wedlock carried great social stigma. Beginning in the 1930s, original birth certificates, along with adoption records, began to be sealed. The reason given for this was to protect the adoptive family from the embarassment of raising an illegitimate child and from the child finding out he or she was adopted in cases where adoptive parents chose not to tell the child of the adoption. Keeping records sealed reinforces these old stigmas.

Adoptive families' fear of the first parents coming back into the lives of adoptees was also a reason noted in sealing records. The current reason given by advocates of sealed records is protection of first parents' privacy. This, however, was never a consideration in sealing records.

Everyone has a right to the record that holds the facts of his or her birth. Discrimination by the state, however, makes adoptees the only people in our society who have been stripped of this right. Adoptees do not need the state to continue its involvement in their lives when they reach adulthood. Working to change legislation that took away the rights of adult adoptees to have unconditional access their state held birth records, just like all other adult citizens, is needed to restore equality between the adopted and the non-adopted.

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