Our Mission

Bastard Nation advocates for the civil and human rights of adult citizens who were adopted as children. Millions of North Americans are prohibited by law from accessing personal records that pertain to their historical, genetic and legal identities. Such records are held by their governments in secret and without accountability, due solely to the fact that they were adopted.
Bastard Nation campaigns for the restoration of their right to access their records. The right to know one’s identity is primarily a political issue directly affected by the practice of sealed records adoptions. Please join us in our efforts to end a hidden legacy of shame, fear and venality.

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ACLU-National Marley

Will the ACLU Defend Adoptee  Civil Rights?

Marley Greiner, Exe. Chair of Bastard Nation sent the following letter to Matthew Briggs at ACLU-National in February 1998, after she attempted several times to speak to a national representative by phone. A few days later, she spoke briefly to then ACLU president Nadine Stroessen during a reception for her at the Ohio State University. Ms. Strossen evinced surprise at the strange reasoning of ACLU’s Sheehan’ and Klunder, and laughed at their idea that sealed records fell under natural law.

February 5, 1998

Matthew Briggs
American Civil Liberties Union
125 Broad Street
New York City, NY 10004-2400

Dear Mr. Briggs:

I write today to express my concern over the activities of Doug Klunder and Jerry Sheehan of the Washington State ACLU (ACLU-W) regarding their chapter’s opposition to open adoption records legislation in Washington (SB6496/HB2810) which would give adults adopted in that state access to their original birth certificates upon request at the age of majority.

On February 2, 1998 Mr. Klunder emailed members of the legislature stating the ACLU-W’s opposition to this proposal. Klunder wrote that opposition was based in large part on “birth mother confidentiality” i.e., the right to privacy, despite the fact that the February 11, 1997 Doe v Sundquist decision (197 FED App., 0051) which challenged unsuccessfully Tennessee legislation that gave adult adoptees access to their original birth certificates, clearly states that the right to privacy does not extend to the disclosure of birth information to the adopted person. Mr. Klunder did not indicate that the plaintiffs lost the case and that the US Supreme Court recently let the ruling stand without comment.

Dismissing Doe v Sundquist, Klunder’s associate Jerry Sheehan, told members of Washington State Open ’98, the originators of the current proposal, that while birthparents may not have a legal right to confidentiality, (as they clearly do under Sundquist) they have a “natural” right to demand that the original birth certificate be withheld from the adult adoptee. Mr. Sheehan thus suggests that the Washington State Legislature would do well to ignore case law which upholds adoptee rights to birth certificate access.

The Sundquist argument aside, Klunder and Sheehan seemingly possess an abysmal knowledge of adoption practice and law; thus discrediting their reliability as experts in the issue of open records. The birth certificates of relinquished children, for instance, are sealed only at the time of adoption–not at the time of relinquishment; therefore the original birth certificates of persons who were relinquished but never adopted are part of the public record and available to the relinquished person upon request. Social workers and adoption agencies are in no legal position to promise confidentiality to either birth parents or adoptive parents, and there are no confidentiality clauses in either relinquishment papers or adoption decrees. Many birth parents, in fact, were and are routinely lied to by “adoption professionals” regarding adoption records. Many birth parents are, in fact, told by agencies that when the relinquished child reaches the age of majority that birth parents are able to access records and/or that the relinquished child, as an adult, is given full access to his or her adoption file. This is not true.

Klunder’s further ignorance of adoption law, practice, and current history is apparent in his claim that the State of Washington opened its adoption records in 1990–which it most certainly did not.

Klunder also stated in his letter to the Washington Legislature that it was the ACLU’s belief that open records would cause the rate of abortion to rise. Klunder and Sheehan, in a private conversation with Washington State Open ’98 members, however, admitted that they indeed had no proof that open records cause abortions to rise. The abortion argument, in fact, is trotted out regularly by anti-choice and anti-open records organizations such as The Christian Coalition, The Family Research Council, The American Center for Law and Justice, The Eagle Forum, Right to Life, and The American Life League–organizations against which the ACLU has successfully defended reproductive rights for over two decades. It is quite disappointing to see the ACLU quoting its opponents’ lies. Statistics compiled by the Alan Guttmacher Institute and the National Center for Court Statistics–studies which Klunder and Sheehan should be able to access quite easily if they so desired–clearly show that abortion rates in states and countries were open records stand are substantially lower than surrounding areas–and that adoption rates are substantiality higher.

Finally, I believe that ACLU-WA’s opposition to open records may be contrary to national ACLU policy regarding the right of adopted persons to their own birth certificates. In 1987, the Oakland County, MI chapter of the ACLU adopted a statement of support for open adoption records On April 21, 1987 the Southwest Florida Chapter of the ACLU, using the Michigan statement as a model, adopted The Rights of Adult Adopted Person Policy Statement which reads in part:

….The ACLU believes that so long as state and/or local governments choose to maintain birth records such records must be maintained and accessible without discrimination by virtue of adopted or non-adopted status.

Toward this end, the ACLU believes that laws information about adoptees and/or their birthparents and laws allowing access to such information only upon consent of registration, or laws allowing access to such information only upon court order, deny adopted persons their birth parents and their relatives the equal protection of that laws and constitutes unwarranted interference by the government with the right of people to chose whether to associate.

The Southwest Florida Chapter of the ACLU recommends that this policy be adopted by the ACLU of Florida and the ACLU of Florida in turn recommend adoption of this policy by the National ACLU.

Bastard Nation has attempted to learn just what ACLU policy is on open adoption records. The policy statement from the Southwest Florida chapter indicates that its statement was most likely forwarded to the national office for endorsement. Calls to the national office over the last few days have yielded no further information . The telephone attendant(s) has no knowledge of whom to transfer such requests, callers are transferred to your office, and phone messages have not been returned.

I am extremely concerned that Misters Klunder and Sheehan have knowingly disseminated incomplete and/or false information to the Washington Legislature regarding open adoption records. I therefore request the following:

  1. An investigation into the activities of Doug Klunder and Jerry Sheehan regarding the dissemination of incomplete and/or false information to the Washington State Legislature.
  2. Acknowledgment from the ACLU that Doe v Sundquist clearly states that adopted adults have the right to their original birth certificates;
  3. A withdrawal of unsubstantiated and unprovable allegations that open adoption records cause abortion;
  4. A copy of the national ACLU policy statement on the right of adopted persons to their original birth certificates, and if no such policy exists, an explanation of why it does not exist ;
  5. The name of an ACLU staff member in the national office with whom we can contact regarding open adoption records.
  6. A copy of the national ACLU regulations, and/or patterns of administration, and/or guidelines, etc. for local and state chapters in regard to interpretation of policy or creation of policy on a case-by-case basis.

I further request that if the national ACLU has a policy that favors the right of adopted adults to access their original birth certificates, that this policy be forwarded at once to the ACLU-W office.

Requests 4 and 5 can be sent to me via e-mail (maddogmarley@worldnet.att.net) or by fax (614-261-6296). I would appreciate a response by Friday, February 6, 1998.

Bastard Nation is the only adoptee rights organization in the country whose only focus is the opening of birth records for all adult adoptees at the age of majority. We have no desire to engage the ACLU in an argument over open adoption records. We in fact, would be very happy to work with you in the formation of ACLU policy regarding open records, if you do not yet have one. Many of our members are longtime ACLU members and supporters who have taken for granted that the ACLU which has for so long defended the concept of equal protection under the law, would include adopted persons under this protection. It is inconceivable that the ACLU would consider the 6,000,000 adopted persons in the US who are denied access to their birth records simply by virtue of their adoptive status as unworthy of Constitutional coverage. The right to one’s original birth certificate is a civil right that is denied us.

The Executive Committee of Bastard Nation is more than pleased to discuss Washington open records–and open records issues at large–with representatives of the national ACLU. I can be reached days and evenings at 614-261-6296

Sincerely yours,

Marley Elizabeth Greiner
Executive Chair Bastard Nation
Acting Chair, BN Great Lakes Region
Chair, Ohio BN/MOB

cc: Executive Committee, Bastard Nation
att: Letter to Doug Klunder 2/3/98

 

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ACLU-WA Helen Hill

Letter from Helen Hill, Chief Petitioner for Oregon Measure 58 to ACLU- WA in support of SB 6496 and HB 2810

 

To: Mr. Doug Klunder

Washington Chapter ACLU
705 Second Avenue #300
Seattle, Washington 98104-1799

CC: Jerry Sheehan, Washington Chapter
and the ACLU National Offices
125 Broad Street 10004-2400

Mr. Klunder,

I recently learned of your opposition to the civil rights legislation for adopted adults now being considered in the Washington State Legislature. I am always amazed at the arrogance of a citizen in full possession of his own rights who passes critical judgement on a group of people fighting for these same rights, but in your case, sir, as you represent of one of the oldest civil rights litigation organizations in this country, I am shocked, deeply disappointed and sickened by your stance in particular.

I have a very hard time believing that I need to remind someone representing the ACLU that the 14th Amendment to the Constitution of the United States contains a sacred promise to all of us (yes, even Bastards!) that no law shall be passed which excludes a group of citizens from the same rights all others possess.

Do you really think, sir, that it is the “moral high road” to deny the civil rights of all adopted adult citizens of the state of Washington on the grounds that there might be a woman, now in her forties or fifties, who may be reluctant to tell her husband or family her “secret”?

Sir, with all due respects, your stance on the issue is obscene. Please review the following policy statement made by one of your ACLU affiliates in Florida from l987, and get over yourself.

Sincerely, Helen Hill

 

THE RIGHTS OF ADULT ADOPTED PERSONS

POLICY STATEMENT ADOPTED APRIL 21, 1987

This chapter agrees with the policy statement accepted by the Oakland County Chapter (Michigan affiliate) and hereby accepts their policy which has been adapted to conform to Florida.

In recent years, the issue of adoption has increased in complexity and has involved the interest and efforts of the courts, social agencies, and media. A person adopted in infancy unfortunately continues to be referred to as an “adopted child” even after reaching adulthood. If this person chooses (or in some cases needs) to discover his or her birthparents or birth records, they find such records are sealed by the courts and are inaccessible.

Historically this was considered to be for the protection of privacy and maintenance of secrecy was ostensibly for the good of all involved. Hoever, careful scrutiny of adoption statutes and practices has indicated that legal changes are necessary, and that civil liberties of adopted adults are being violated. In the absence of any state or national policy on this matter, and with the belief that adopted persons should be treated no differently than other citizens, the Southwest Florida Chapter Board has voted to endorse the following policy;

“Numerous states have laws or procedures which impede the ability of adopted adults, their birthparents, and other relatives to ascertain each others’ identities. The ACLU believes that so long as state and/or local governments choose to maintain birth records, such records must be maintained and accessible without discrimination by virtue of adopted or non-adopted status.

Toward this end, the ACLU believes that laws suppressing information about adoptees and/or their birthparents, and laws allowing access to such information only upon consent or registration, or laws allowing access to such information only upon court order, deny adopted persons, their birthaprents, and their relatives the equal protection of the laws and constitutes unwarranted interference by the government with the right of people to choose whether to associate.”

The political debate on the adoption issue has tended to be framed in terms of psychological issues; emotional issues; medical issues and sociological issues. The above policy confines itself to a civil liberties analysis.

Respectfully submitted,

Nancy Stone Farley

Chapter Chair SW Florida Chapter, ACLU

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ACLU-WA Washington Open

Response to ACLU in re: HB 2810 and SB 6496

 February 2, 1998

Washington State House of Representatives

Washington State Senate

Olympia, WA 98504

Dear Senators and Representatives,

We are writing in response to the ACLU of Washington’s letter dated February 2nd, 1998, in which they state their opposition to HB 2810 and SB 6496, which would give adult adoptees access to their original birth certificates. It is apparent from their letter that the ACLU of Washington is misinformed about the history of Washington State Adoption law, recent case law concerning open records, and the effects of open records on the rates of abortion and/or adoption. The purpose of this letter is to provide clarification of those issues for the ACLU of Washington and for other interested parties.

Washington State had open records until 1943, when they were sealed to protect the adoptee from the stigma of “illegitimacy.” Original birth certificates have never been sealed to protect birth parent confidentiality, as evidenced by the fact that adoption records remain open until and unless the adoption is finalized and the fact that the petitioner must publish newspaper notices with the birth parent’s name prior to such finalization. In 1990, the legislature passed the Confidential Intermediary law which opened adoption records to confidential intermediaries for the purposes of fostering reunions between birth parents and adult adoptees. In 1993, the legislature prospectively opened birth records to adult adoptees but took no action regarding earlier adoptions. The ACLU of Washington’s letter failed to note this historical background, incorrectly stating that the records were opened to adult adoptees in 1990, and incorrectly implying that the records were sealed to protect birth parent confidentiality.

The ACLU of Washington’s letter also mentions the recent Tennessee lawsuit Doe V. Sundquist, but fails to disclose that the plaintiffs lost that case in each in every venue including the United States Supreme Court, which refused to hear the case in October of 1997. The Court dismissed the claims that opening records violated a birthparent’s right to privacy or that they violated any implied contracts of confidentiality, and stated definitively that “State adoption procedures have never promised total confidentiality to birth parents. This fact is reflected by the absence of references to confidentiality in the forms that birth mothers signed under the former statutory scheme to surrender their parental rights.” (1997 FED App. 0051P (6th Cir))

Finally, the ACLU of Washington claims that opening records to adult adoptees might raise the abortion rate while reducing the adoption rate but fails to quote any evidence to support this assertion. The fact is that the national abortion rate of 25.8 abortions per thousand female residents between the ages of 15 and 44 is over twice that of Kansas, an open records state which has a rate of 12.7 and is surrounded by closed records states which have rates of 21.9 for Colorado, 17.0 for Missouri, and 13.9 for Nebraska. Additionally, data compiled by the Alan Guttmacher Institute shows that abortions and abortion rates in England and Wales decreased in 1974 through 1976, when the opening of adoption records was discussed in Parliament and put into effect, even though the same data indicates a consistent increase in those rates for all other years between 1961 and 1987. As for adoptions, there were 31.2 adoptions per thousand live births across the nation in 1992 but 48.4 in the open records state of Kansas, and lower rates of 26 in Colorado; 27.5 in Missouri, and 42.4 in Nebraska, all sealed records states.

Jerry Sheehan of ACLU-W acknowledges that they have no data to support their claim that opening records will raise the abortion rate, and acknowledges the fact that case law does not support the ACLU’s position. Mr. Sheehan instead claims that the ACLU-W is arguing that while a birthparent may not have a legal right to confidentiality, they have a natural right to demand that the original birth certificate be withheld from the adult adoptee. This flies in the face of a “rights of the adopted person” policy adopted by the ACLU National Chapter in 1987 which states that:

“…… the ACLU believes that laws suppressing information about adoptees and/or their birthparents, and laws allowing access to such information only upon consent or registration, or laws allowing access to such information only upon court order, deny adopted persons, their birthparents, and their relatives the equal protection of the laws and constitutes unwarranted interference by the government with the right of people to choose whether to associate.”

We believe that this position is in accord with the National ACLU’s stated goals of furthering the right of freedom of assembly, equal protection under the law, and freedom from governmental interference in one’s personal matters – all of which we believe to be furthered by a shift towards open records. Therefore, we are surprised to be facing opposition from the ACLU of Washington, whose website states that they “…staunchly support every person’s right to make personal decisions – without government interference – about religion, abortion, marriage, and other family and lifestyle matters.” Open `98 disagrees with ACLU-W that a birth certificate is a confidential record whose contents belong solely to the parents listed on it, and instead agrees with the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals, which stated that:

“we note our skepticism that information concerning a birth might be protected from disclosure by the Constitution. A birth is simultaneously an intimate occasion and a public event–the government has long kept records of when, where, and by whom babies are born. Such records have myriad purposes, such as furthering the interest of children in knowing the circumstances of their birth.”

(1997 FED App. 0051P (6th Cir))

Washington State Open ’98

19019 Pacific Hwy S.

Suite 341

Seattle, WA 98188

425-883-7293Response to ACLU in re: HB 2810 and SB 6496

 

 

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Bastard Nation Goes to the Oscars – 1997

Happy Oscar Week!

In 1996-1997 Bastard  Nation sponsored a series of nation-wide open records events in conjunction with the award-winning Oscar-nominated film Secrets and Lies. In March 1997 we attended the Oscar ceremony.  Here’s a recap.

(The original Secrets and Lies page was lost in the transfer to our new webpage, and links are currently taken from the Wayback Machine.  If you have any pictures of the event, please feel free to forward them to us, and we’ll add them to the new page.)

“Positive Picket” at the Clay theater in San Francisco: November 30, 1996

Nationwide Groundhog Day Open Records Event: February 2, 1997

Open Records Rally at the Bridge Theater in San Francisco: March 1, 1997

Beverly Hills Rally at the Fine Arts Theater: March 10, 1997

“Black Tie Rally” at the Oscars: March 24, 1997

… Continue Reading

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Become a Bastard Nation Legislative Liaison!

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Bastard Nation needs Legislative Liaisons in every state with laws that seal adoption records. We need eyes and ears in the legislatures, creating relationships and gathering information.

What does a BN Legislative Liaison do? They talk with lawmakers and their staff about adoptee rights and the laws that seal records. They distribute Bastard Nation position papers and FAQs to legislators and staff members. They record their conversations and report to the BN Legislative Committee.

They are organized, informed, friendly, helpful, and engaged.

What do you need to do to be a BN Legislative Liaison?

1. You need to live close to the capitol of your state.
2. You need to be able to appear friendly, even when talking with people who disagree with you or are just disagreeable, period.
3. You need to have a flexible schedule.
4. You need to agree with Bastard Nation’s mission: If you don’t know what that is, go to bastardnation.org, it’s right there on our welcome page.

Those are the prerequisites. If you are interested, click the picture of the capitol rotunda, and fill out the application form. We will be in touch and schedule an online orientation and training.

We look forward to working with you!

Read what real live adoptees have to say about secret adoption and sealed records....A service of Bastard Nation and Emma Pea! Fighting adoptacrats since 1996.

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Bastard Nation is gathering the names of moms who are willing to step forward and say that they were never promised confidentiality. If you are willing to participate, please comment this status. Your name (and if you choose, the relinquishment date) will be added to a list used in newspaper ads and to educate legislators.

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SAMPLE RESOLUTION AGAINST VETOES AND OTHER RESTRICTIONS

SAMPLE RESOLUTION AGAINST VETOES AND OTHER RESTRICTIONS

Any political organization seeking to enact true open records legislation should be very clear with both their constituents and the legislators they work with about what the essential provisions of the proposed bill are. Any modification or deletion of the essential provisions of a bill should be immediate cause to have the bill killed.

Any political organization seeking the assistance of Bastard Nation to pass open records legislation must hold unconditional access by adult adoptees to the original record of their birth as an essential provision that cannot be modified or deleted. Read our Mission Statement.

Bastard Nation will not assist any political organization to pass open records legislation unless their governing board or other leadership

passes a written resolution such as the following that commits the board to a strategy of no compromise on key provisions
informs its constituents of this commitment and this strategy
informs the sponsoring legislators of this commitment and this strategy.

WHEREAS we recognize that disclosure and contact vetoes, redactions, mandatory intermediaries and registry provisions are an affront to the dignity of adopted persons everywhere and a violation of their right to due process and equal treatment under the law,

WHEREAS there has been a demonstrable negative effect on the ability to pass unconditional open records in states that have passed veto legislation and/or any provisions that are less than unconditional access on demand by the adult adoptee,

WHEREAS our primary goal is to restore the right of adult adoptees everywhere to be treated as full citizens under the law,

WE HEREBY DECLARE that under no circumstances will we accept the addition of veto, redaction, intermediary, or registry provisions, or any conditional provisions to our legislation that would be less than unconditional access for adult adoptees to the original record of their birth. All legislative sponsors and members of this organization will be informed of our policy on this matter to ensure that the bill is pulled promptly in the event of such revisions.