DEFORMERS DO THE DARNDEST THINGS: OPEN LETTER TO ANONYMOUS
On July 28, someone called "Anonymous" replied to my blog "Deformers do the Darndest Things." I had so many things to reply that I decided to open up this new blog to discuss the things He/she brought up:
"Everyone (whether labeled a "reformer for a "deformer") agrees that, ideally, access to records for adult adooptees should be unrestricted. What's your solution? What's your strategy? In which state(s) have you made this happen?
The internet abounds with armchair quarterbacks on this topic. Only a handful are actually having an impact -- whether all at once or incrementally. Meanwhile, millions are dying "left behind."
I don't agree with you that deformers believe in access to records for all adult adoptees. If they did, they would work to support every good bill that comes along and they would oppose every bad bill that pops up. They would not change the good bill into something they didn't really believe in, would they?
I am not an armchair quarterback who sits at Starbucks and criticizes the plays. I am an active player in the game and I have made an impact in the arena of equal rights for adoptees. I have been a player for 20 years now.
My solution is nothing new. My solution and my ideals are at the very backbone of the adoption reform movement for at least 30 years. My solution is to get bills passed that will restore to adopted adults their unconditional right to access their original birth certificate, without any strings attached.
My first five years I worked strictly in Illinois where I reside. My first activity was in the summer of 1996. I got together with other Illinois adoptees on the Internet to fight the Uniform Adoption Act (The UAA) which had come to our state.
If you don't remember, the UAA was an abominable piece of legislation that legislators, attorneys, agencies and social work professionals were proposing throughout the country. If the UAA had passed, all of our original birth certificates (obcs) would have been sealed for 99 years!
I guess in those days Illinois lawmakers actually paid attention to us because in the fall of 1996, I received a letter from Representative Patricia Lindner, sponsor of the bill. She wrote that after listening to all of the opposition across the state, she had decided NOT to propose the UAA in Illinois.
So now we were on a roll and several of us decided that we didn't want to stop now - we wanted to continue on working to try to capture the gold - an unconditional open records bill. (that's what we called it in those days.)
We spent hours every Sunday in different libraries around the state, painfully writing our bill. Every word was analyzed and re-analyzed. We sweated over each sentence. We poured over each paragraph. It was our labor of love. When we were finished, we had a beautiful, 3-page pure "open records" bill.
When our two companion bills came back from Legislative Publishing, we were in heaven. HB 343 and its companion bill SB 600 were now official.
As we began to lobby for our bill, we of course began to run into opposition. At a meeting of the Adoption Committee of the Chicago Bar Association an attorney told us we should fix up the Adoption Registry instead. And that must have planted some seeds in people's brains because when the deformers got through with our bill, HB 343 had been turned into The Adoption Registry and Medical Information Exchange, passed into law in 2002. Our original bills had died in committee.
I had my fill of Illinois and so turned my efforts to the national scene. I became a life-time member of Bastard Nation: The Adoptee Rights Organization. I attended the Chgo convention where the idea for a ballot initiative in Oregon began. After we all went home, about 3 weeks later, Helen Hill (a BN member) was posting to us all her ideas for running a ballot initiative in Oregon.
BN was intimately involved with the campaign for Measure 58. It consumed us for almost 2 years. We all helped out in so many ways and we were ecstatic when it passed overwhelmingly on Nov. 3, 1998. Two years of court battles ensued, but in May, 2000, the law went into effect.
If you have any doubts about Bastard Nation's close involvement with Measure 58, please read Prof. E. Wayne Carp's book, Adoption Politics: Bastard Nation & Ballot Initiative 58. c2004.
Next came Alabama. A member of BN's Executive Committee, Dr. David Ansarti, a resident of Alabama, joined his hands and BN's with the grassroots group AWARE, and by summer of 2000, Alabama passed an unrestricted law.
Then came New Hampshire. Bastard Nation member Janet Allen was elected to the New Hampshire State Legislature. She toiled for almost 3 years and it paid off. In 2005, New Hampshire became another state with open records.
Maine came in 2009. BN was not involved directly with this state, but we do believe that all of the work that we did in the other states surely had an influence on other states then and now.
During this entire 10 year period, BN also worked to keep restrictive bills from passing and we have been pretty darn successful at that too.
You ask what my strategy is. I can send you to our BN website to read our goals - http://www.bastards.org/.
My personal strategy is too long to write here. I'll try to summarize and give you the top two points that would be part of my strategy.
Most important - you absolutely must have a very powerful and influential sponsor. Sometimes it takes a long time to either find one or develop a relationship with the right one. The sponsor needs to be totally committed to passing your bill and totally committed to seeing it all the way through.
Once your find a solid sponsor, you have to develop your core group who are dedicated enough to hang in to the very end. No giving up and no giving in. A core group must be totally in agreement as to the goals of the group. The sponsor and every member of the core group must be in harmony as far as passing only an unconditional bill.
All members must be on the same page as far as what they will do if their bill gets deformed. They must be in agreement that if any restrictions get added and it looks as if they can't get rid of them, then they will pull the bill rather than send on a bill over which they no longer have absolute control. There must be a really firm covenant between sponsor and core group.
With the above two strategies, you won't get a deformer bill in your state.