New York Set Adoptees’ Birth Certificates Free Last Week, Advocates See Path for Other States

November 19, 2019

Originally published in The Chronicle of Social Change on November 19, 2019.

A bill passed the New York Statehouse earlier this year giving adoptees access to their original birth certificates. Governor Cuomo signed off on the legislation that will go into effect in January.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) ended decades of secrecy around adoptions in New York on Thursday, signing a landmark reform bill to allow adult adoptees unrestricted access to their original birth certificates.

Since 1936, that access has been barred without a court order. Advocates characterize New York’s rules as a human rights issue, and Cuomo echoed that in a statement.

Starting January 15, adoptees over age 18 will be able to request their certified, long-form original birth certificates from the state or New York City, without needing to go before judges who they claim often refused their requests.

“The signing of this bill is a momentous step forward for adoptees across New York State,” said Assembly Member David Weprin (D) of Queens, the assembly bill’s lead sponsor, hours after Cuomo signed the bill.

New York is the tenth and largest state to grant adoptees equal access to birth certificates. Until now, they could only request “amended” birth certificates, created post-adoption and lacking birth names and locations. Those who wanted that information — and vital medical and ethnic history — were left to pursue arduous personal investigations.

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