The Georgia House of Representatives' Juvenile Justice Committee Tuesday discussed changing a state law that could impact thousands of people who have been adopted.
As it stands now, someone who is adopted in Georgia can't see his or her original birth certificate unless a judge orders it to be unsealed. That means the adoptee will likely never know his or her first given name or their birth parents' names.
"It would kind of plug up the hole in the heart; it's crazy!" exclaimed Archie Hyde, who was adopted and attended the meeting.
House Bill 524 would allow adult adoptees in Georgia to access their original birth certificate. It would also give birth parents the option to let their wishes be known whether they wished to be contacted by their children in the future.
Jim Outman, an adoption attorney and also a father of an adopted son, said not having equal access to birth certificates is a civil rights issue. "I have to go to court to get it if I'm an adoptee. You can go down and get yours just because you were born."
He added the 1941 law was enacted for reasons that are outdated today. "[It was passed] to protect the adoptee and the adopted parent from the stigma of a bastard child. In that time, a child born out of wedlock was a bastard; that's what the law said."
However, some worry unsealing an original birth certificate will also expose the identity of the birth parents, even when they wish to keep that a secret. "Should a woman who chooses life have the right to choose anonymity?" pointed out Rep. Regina Quick, R-Athen, who serves on the committee.
Outman said courts in other states who have already changed their laws shot down those objections. "In both cases, it was determined a mother does not have a constitutional protective liberty to be anonymous to her children."
House Bill 524 next heads to a sub-committee for further discussion. Ten states have enacted similar laws, including Tennessee and Alabama.
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Tuesday, April 20 2010 11:21 PM EDT2010-04-21 03:21:00 GMT
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