February 2005        Vol. 1 No. 13
Please forward and redistribute by print or e-mail. Help spread the word!
CELEBRATE GOOD TIMES – HEY HEY!
"Monday, January 3, 2005 was such an intensely personal day, yet it was also a blatantly public day. Personally, this day was right up there with getting married and having children, a day that I don't think I will ever forget."
On New Year’s Eve, as the clock struck 12:01, I realized that I had been holding my breath since last May when SB 335 was passed. My first thought was that the law was now in effect and there wasn't anything anyone could do about it! I hadn't realized how nervous I was about possible law suits and I now realized that Monday, January 3rd, the first day that adult adoptees could get their original birth certificates, was really going to happen.
Actually, the hoopla surrounding the passage of the bill began in earnest around January 1st which is when the law took effect. Most of the local papers were beginning to write stories about it and several TV stations were becoming interested.
Those of us who were instrumental in the bill’s passage seemed to be running from interview to interview. On Jan. 2nd, Marley Greiner, Executive Chair of Bastard Nation, flew in from Ohio and once she was settled in we prepared for the celebration that was to take place that night at a Concord restaurant.
The celebration was great. It was just so much fun for me. Senator D'Allesandro, Representative Whalley and most of us who supported the bill were there. I was especially pleased to have Marley there. It was great to be able to share these moments with another BNer. The camaraderie within the room was such a welcome relief from the months of debate and anger that had been directed at me by some of my colleagues
The following morning, January 3rd, we all arrived at the office of vital records bright and early. We brought a helium tank with balloons, Bastard Nation Buttons and fun food. The staff at vital records was absolutely wonderful and they enjoyed the party atmosphere as much as we did.
I was elated to be the first New Hampshire adoptee to receive my original birth certificate and I was pleased that my adoptive brother was able to be the second. I handed the clerk my form, my ID and $12 in cash. My wonderfully supportive husband was standing with me and I remember saying to him that I should have brought gold.
I remember knowing that there were photographers everywhere, including on the other side of the desk, facing me, and I knew that there were an awful lot of people crammed into the small room behind me but somehow none of that made me nervous. I was focused on the actual moment and they all seemed to blur into the background. I hadn't filled out the bottom of the form and I needed to do that -I didn't have my glasses on - so I remember asking my husband what the form said.
The clerk finally took all of the information and said that it would be a few minutes. I remember saying that I'd waited 51 years so what were a few more minutes. The next thing I knew, the clerk was handing me my original birth certificate. I was shaking his hand, everyone behind me was clapping and I gave my husband a hug and kiss - which was plastered all over TV.
For the remainder of the day I escorted adoptees down the stairs and helped them locate the vital records office. This was more rewarding for me than I ever would have expected. We had adoptees from every imaginable emotional situation. One adoptee came into the building crying, cried all the way through the access process and left crying.
Another adoptee told me that she was diagnosed with breast cancer, has an 18-year-old daughter and needed more information. One male adoptee was loudly proclaiming that it was about time he was able to get his own birth certificate! One adoptee didn't even know about the new law until her husband heard it on the radio that very morning! There was another female adoptee who drove down from Toronto and even joined us at our celebration the evening before. Many of the adoptees were at various stages of nervousness but there were also several who were calm and happy. I think that I saw signs of relief on many a face that day.
As the day came to an end, I expected that the hoopla would be over. I was so wrong. There were calls from radio stations as far away as Chicago and all throughout New Hampshire. I had a call from a Boston TV station, 4 more radio interviews, and had lunch with a reporter from the Chicago Tribune.
In the weeks since January 3rd, I have had many more incredible experiences. I've been contacted by childhood friends that I haven't heard from in 30+ years. I've received cards and notes from people who have heard about what I've done. I returned to the State House on Wednesday and I've had freshmen tell me that they've seen me on TV, representatives speak to me who might not have before and genuine joy on the faces of representatives who are friends. I've had a senator and representative from other states contact me. They are interested in submitting this same legislation in their respective states. It's been a whirlwind and I'm still basking in the afterglow of a hard won battle.
I have to admit that my eyes watered a bit when I actually got my original birth certificate. I was surprised because I was so sure that I would only feel great joy. It was such a wonderful moment. All of the hard work, the culmination of years of effort and the pride reflected in my husband's eyes just added to the euphoria. I knew at that moment that I had crossed an invisible line and that I was finally equal. It was one of the best moments in my life!
My wish for each and every one of you is for you to have the same experience that I did!
I am so proud of New Hampshire!
HONK IF YOU’RE MY DADDY
A protest rally, "Honk if You’re My Daddy," was held on Sunday, January 2nd, the day before the Fox Network aired their controversial new reality show, "Who’s Your Daddy?" The rally was sponsored by Ron Morgan from the Adoptee Rights Organizing Project and Bastard Nation. The purpose of the rally was to call attention to the fact that adult adoptees cannot get their original birth certificates like all other citizens.
The protestors chanted, walked around with their signs and talked on the bullhorn to get their message out. About 2,000 cars passed by and the protestors were able to interact with many of them. A reporter from the local news station KNX 1070-AM was also there and did an in-depth interview with Ron Morgan.
WHO’S YOUR DADDY – ANOTHER VIEWPOINT
On January 13th, The Portland Oregonian printed a letter from Bastard Nation member Jane Edwards regarding "Who's Your Daddy?" Jane is Regional Director, Concerned United Birthparents, Inc.
"Let me suggest that Peter Ames Carlin direct his criticisms of Fox Broadcasting’s "Who’s Your Daddy?" to the laws in 43 states that prohibit adult adoptees from obtaining their original birth certificates and thus impede reunions ("Freudian follies reign in Fox’s sad, cynical ‘Who’s Your Daddy?" Living Jan. 5).
"Fortunately Oregon adoptees can receive their birth certificates – and learn the names of their original parents -- thanks to Ballot Measure 58, passed in 1998.
"Although the reunion between the father and daughter is overly-dramatized, "Who’s Your Daddy?" tells some truths about adoption that the media often ignores: Fathers as well as mothers suffer when their children are lost to adoption; and the pain does not diminish over time.
"Many birthparents would not have surrendered their children if they had had an alternative. The bond between birthparents and their children is so strong that they are often willing to go to extreme lengths to reunite."
--January 13th, The Portland Oregonian
ILLINOIS STATE REPRESENTATIVE WANTS TO KNOW
We have a golden opportunity to set things in motion again for a pure open records bill in Illinois.
Illinois State Representative Sara Feigenholtz (an adoptee) wants to find out if there is a grassroots movement in Illinois for open records. She has been motivated by the pure open records bill that was just passed in New Hampshire.
Representative Feigenholtz has set up a special adoption link on her website and she has invited Illinois adoptees to write to her expressing their opinion on open records for Illinois.
Please go to http://www.staterepsara.com. Hit the link for "adoption."
This is not a survey with questions to answer. Rather, Rep. Feigenholtz wants YOUR OPINIONS. It is VITAL that in your reply you clarify that you support only UNCONDITIONAL access for all adult adoptees! You can use Oregon, Alabama and New Hampshire as examples of successful legislation. Nothing fancy – just a few words on who you are and what you want for Illinois.
CHANGE IN IRELAND
AdoptionIreland issued a statement regarding the announcement by Brian Lenihan, TD, Minister of State at the Department of Health and Children, on new adoption legislation. "Without taking away from what has been announced today, we can't forget that adopted people still must go through an entirely unnecessary and rigorous process just to get their own birth certificates, and we are still denied our own information from our adoption files. We've been promised that a further Bill will address these issues. We also wish to see an inquiry into past illegal adoption practices carried out by individuals and registered adoption societies."
The proposals for change include a desire to ratify the Hague Convention on the Protection of Children in Intercountry Adoption and to give legal standing to new post-adoption information and tracing services.
More information on the proposals is available from the Department of Health and Children's website at http://www.dohc.ie/news/2005/Adoption_legislation
UPCOMING OR ACTIVE LEGISLATION
Watch These States:
Where The Action Is
THE POLITICS OF VICTIMIZATION
A friend of mine, a Lutheran minister in Vermont, sent me an advance copy of her Sunday sermon. In it she drew parallels between the situation of domestic abuse and the situations she observed among workers and activists in the last election.
I couldn’t help but notice that this analogy of domestic violence also applied to those of us who are working for equal rights for adult adoptees.
I recognized the analogy between the abusers (all those who tell us why we shouldn't have our records and rights) and the legion of adoptees, the Benedict Adoptees, and organizations who either see nothing wrong with the system as it is or are willing to compromise and don't see that to do so allows the abuser to continue the abuse and abuse us again.
Like the victim of domestic violence we cannot allow the abusers to frame the argument because if we do they will always win. We cannot let them tell us we are crazy, ungrateful, misguided, or in any other way label us in the pejorative for demanding our rights and records and tell us that if we would only be "reasonable" everything will be okay. Worse yet we cannot begin to believe that to be "reasonable" will make us okay. That only perpetuates the abuse and legitimizes the abuser.
Closed records is violence committed against us in that our basic human right to the very document that defines our innate being is withheld from us. Closed records is violence committed against us because it denies us the very document that documents our human personhood. Closed records is violence committed against us because it denies us that very document that documents our family of origin and links us to our ancestors; that is, our connection to the human race. Closed records is violence committed against us simply because it denies us that very document that is our right to have.
[Fr. Sweeley is administrator, Sophia Divinity School and Pastor, St. James Catholic Community. Jack, a long time member of Bastard Nation, is an adoptee as well an adoptive father of 3 children.]
BASTARD NATION GETS A FACE LIFT
Run, don’t walk, to Bastard Nation’s Home Page, http://www.bastards.org, to see our extreme makeover. Many thanks to David Ansardi, Mike Doughney, Charles Filius and Marley Greiner for making us look so beautiful again!
GOOD BOOKS BY BASTARDS
THE ADOPTION MYSTIQUE by Joanne Small.
GROWING IN THE DARK: ADOPTION SECRECY AND ITS CONSEQUENCES by Janine Baer
JOIN BASTARD NATION
Editors: Anita Walker Field and David C. Ansardi
c. 2004 Bastard Nation: The Adoptee Rights Organization
Please share Byline: Bastard Nation with your friends and colleagues and with your other e-mail lists. Cross-posting is encouraged. You also have our enthusiastic permission to print out Byline: Bastard Nation and share it with those not on the internet.