Significant progress is being made to introduce a bill that will get rid of the state’s “donut hole” and restore the right of all Michigan-born adopted people to request and obtain their own original birth records, without discriminatory restrictions. Here’s where things stand right now— and what advocates should know as we move forward.
An Equal Rights Bill Is in Process
While HB4529 is already active in the Michigan legislature, it is not acceptable. We have, however, been working hard to introduce a genuine equal rights bill package that does one important thing: provides a copy of the original birth certificate to a Michigan-born adult adopted person upon request. In its current format, the package are two bills which are “tie-barred,” meaning each bill must be passed in order for both to be enacted. One tie-bar bill requires the vital records office to release the original birth certificate to an adult adopted person (and their descendants) while the second tie-bar bill removes the Central Adoption Registry from the process involving release of the original birth certificate. A coalition memo describing in general what the bills do is here, though parts of the bills may change after further input from the Department of Health and Human Services (MDHHS), the agency tasked with implementing any enacted birth record bills (see next section).
Next Steps: Where We Are Today
In the last week we received feedback from the MDHHS on the tie-bar bill package. The feedback has been constructive, and a majority of the suggested changes will not alter the bill. That is, even as the legislative drafting office addresses those changes, the bill package will remain an unrestricted equal rights package. One issue, however, needs more discussion to resolve. That issue relates to how easy or hard it is for the vital records office to match amended birth records with original birth records. This issue relates primarily to older amended birth records allegedly created by the courts, though the specific dates affected by this issue is not yet fully determined. The meeting to discuss this issue with the vital records office is now being scheduled. We are working as expeditiously as we can to come to an agreement on a equal rights bill that will meet the demands of all Michigan-born adult adoptees.
What You Can Do Right Now
Honestly, for the next 3-4 weeks there may not be a lot to do with direct advocacy and legislators. Legislators generally react to—and are controlled by—existing legislation. With an active bill at least a few weeks away, it only confuses legislators to talk about a bill that is not even available to review. Worse, it could activate opposition to the concept of an unrestricted equal rights bill and allow opposition to build more easily, even before a bill is introduced.
So our advice right now is to chill, but do one thing: if you are a Michigan resident let us know who represents you. And if you are a Michigan-born adoptee who lives in another state, let us know you are out there. This is the most important task for supporters right now.