By Suzette Parmley
New Jersery Gov. Christie signed the New Jersey Adoptees' Birthright Bill into law Tuesday in front of several adoptees and their families and other advocates who had championed the measure for more than three decades.
The new law allows adoptees 18 and older to access their original birth certificates without court intervention and makes New Jersey the 10th state since 1995 to unseal adoptee records. Colorado's governor signed that state's bill into law Thursday, while Pennsylvania is reviewing a similar adoptee-access measure.
"We're bringing forth the needed changes and the safeguards that will protect the privacy of the woman who offers her child for adoption if she so desires that privacy," Christie said on a raised stage at the Statehouse Annex Courtyard, "and ensures that we allow the child and his or her adoptive parents to have access to medical information and other information later on to help them care for their own health and the health of their family."
On April 28, the Republican governor conditionally vetoed the bill for the second time in three years, but the Legislature approved his changes.
Christie said the bill was personal to him. He again shared the story about his younger sister, Dawn, who was adopted at 2 years old.
"My parents decided to adopt . . . and it gave me the ability to have a sister in my life for now the last 39 years," he said. "It's important that we don't diminish the joy felt by families experiencing adoption. I want them to have that opportunity, and I also want the young woman who makes the decision to give up her child to be protected as well."
Christie was flanked on stage by members of New Jersey Coalition for Adoption Reform and Education (NJCARE), as well as the bill's prime Democratic sponsors in both chambers, including Sen. Joseph Vitale (D., Middlesex) and Assembly Speaker Vincent Prieto (D., Hudson). Sen. Diane Allen (R., Burlington), who has sponsored the bill for 17 years, sat in the front row.
Under the new law, adult adoptees will be able to obtain an original birth certificate without the need for a court order, beginning in 2017.
For adoptions finalized after Aug. 1, 2015, long-form birth certificates will be available without redaction, and birth parents will be permitted to submit an information statement electing their preferred method of personal contact with the children they had put up for adoption.
For adoptions finalized before Aug. 1, 2015, birth parents may choose to file a preference for contact with the State Registrar, including direct contact, contact through an intermediary, or sharing of only medical information with continued privacy.
Before the bill-signing, Army Maj. Peter Franklin, a longtime member of NJCARE, said in a statement: "This bill will free so many people who may have otherwise felt that they had no right to know where they came from and to whom they are connected."
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