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

November 19, 2019

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

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.

“Where you came from informs who you are, and every New Yorker deserves access to the same birth records — it’s a basic human right,” Cuomo said in a statement. “For too many years, adoptees have been wrongly denied access to this information and I am proud to sign this legislation into law and correct this inequity once and for all.”

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. 

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