Decades-Long Fight To Gain Adoptee Rights Nears Victory

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ROCHESTER, NY (WXXI) – Adoptee rights advocates are applauding state lawmakers for passing legislation that grants adoptees access to their original birth certificates.

That’s good news for Brad Cupples of Victor, an adoptee who has been lobbying for this for decades.

He says, until now, adoptees would have to go through a judicial proceeding to gain access to the document and the important information it contains.

The Assembly passes the Adoptee Bill of Rights weeks after it overwhelmingly passed in the Senate CREDIT NYADOPTEERIGHTS.ORG

“The child’s heritage, their origin, the names of their birth parents,” he said. “And the only way to get that document up until now has been by going to court and getting a judge to unseal the records.”

Cupples says the original birth certificate contains information that can help people find family and medical histories, which becomes increasingly important when an adoptee becomes a parent.

“You take your child to the doctor and the doctor asks, any history of kidney problems, heart disease, liver problems, cancer, or a variety of other hereditary illnesses. And you have to sit there and say, ‘I don’t know,’ ” he said.

Cupples met his birth mother 20 years ago, and he finally got answers to the many questions he’s had all his life. He said that was an extremely powerful, life-changing moment.

Cupples says now he can go to the doctor with his kids and answer those family history questions.

Jeff Hancock of Avon is with the Unsealed Initiative, a group that has been lobbying for passage of the bill for several years.

He says this means adoptees will finally see a document with their name on it.

“This is our birth name, and this is information that we haven’t been privy to,” he said. “Even though some of us search and find our family, and we get a reunion with our birth parents, or birth siblings and aunts and uncles, we still lack that piece of paper that’s identifying as who we are, who we were born as.”

Hancock says he joined the Unsealed Initiative soon after finding out in 2007 he was adopted.

He says he was trying to get a passport and needed an original birth certificate, which his adoptive mother did not have. Hancock says his father, who died in 1990, never told him he was adopted, and his adoptive mother finally told Hancock, then in his 40s, that he was adopted.

Backers of the bill say the original birth certificate contains important information that adoptees should have the right to have access to.

Opponents cite concerns over birth parents’ right to privacy.

The bill still needs approval from the governor.