The State Stole My Birthright

My original birth certificate 

I woke up this morning thinking about how the state stole my birthright and I felt indignant.  

This is not anything new, for those of you who know that I participate in Adoptee Rights; but I have, as of late, been thinking about it in a new way.

The state of Illinois, with all its wisdom and power, hid from me for 40 years of my life, my God-given human right to know my mother’s name.  And the state of Illinois got away with this injustice by using faulty laws that violated my due process rights.  What is due process?  A right that every United States citizen has.  Let’s look at some definitions:

"No person shall be deprived of life, liberty, property or of any right granted him by statute, unless matter involved first shall have been adjudicated against him upon trial conducted according to established rules regulating judicial proceedings, and it forbids condemnation without a hearing, Pettit v. Penn., La.App., 180 So.2d 66, 69." Black’s Law Dictionary, 6th Edition, page 500.

"The essential elements of due process of law are notice, an opportunity to be heard, and the right to defend in an orderly proceeding." Fiehe v. R.E. Householder Co., 125 So. 2, 7 (Fla. 1929).

"To dispense with notice before taking property is likened to obtaining judgement without the defendant having ever been summoned." Mayor of Baltimore vs. Scharf, 54 Md. 499, 519 (1880).

"An orderly proceeding wherein a person is served with notice, actual or constructive, and has an opportunity to be heard and to enforce and protect his rights before a court having power to hear and determine the case. Kazubowski v. Kazubowski, 45 Ill.2d 405, 259, N.E.2d 282, 290." Black’s Law Dictionary, 6th Edition, page 500.* (

So I return to my original premise that the State (of Illinois) stole my birth right.  I was an infant when my adoption occurred.  I had no attorney of my own protecting my due process rights.

The state of Illinois, up until 2011, withheld all adopted citizens’ original birth certificates from them, with the exception of those very few adoptees who had a "match" in Illinois' useless adoption registry.

A U.S. citizen in this country who cannot get the legal document of their own birth?  Seems preposterous but absolutely true for the majority of adopted citizens in this country. 

It is even more ridiculous when you factor in the post-911 problems of some adoptees’ not being able to obtain driver’s licenses and passports. 

In Illinois, an adoptee within the Circle of Trust pushed a bill to open Illinois adoptees’ original birth certificates and even though the majority received those unsealed original birth certificates, a minority still cannot access theirs.  So now, the minority adoptees are stuck with a terrible situation.  Why?   

It’s called a Disclosure Veto and this is where the state gives a minority of birth mothers the power to deny an adopted citizen their right to an accurate copy of his/her birth certificate.  So now we have gone from the State violating the adoptee’s rights to allowing another U.S. citizen to violate an adoptee’s rights.  And we call that progress?

As somebody who was born in the state of Illinois in the 1960s, I was deprived of an opportunity to be heard and protect my rights before a Court (my adopted parents’ rights were protected though).    

My God-given right to know my family name, to know where I was born, to enjoy relationships with members of my birth family, to know which diseases run in my family and to know when my mother began menstruating and went into menopause or if she had breast cancer,  to see somebody who looks like me, to know what strengths and talents run in my family, to be able to build an accurate family tree in fourth grade, to know my ethnicity, and to hear my birth narrative that didn’t start with

 "And we picked you up at the adoption agency . . ."

All were stripped from me, a U.S. citizen.  

My pursuit of happiness was sidelined while others’ happiness was put first (my original mother’s and my adopted parents’).  The adults in my adoption case had their legal rights protected but mine were not considered important. 

I acknowledge that my right to be a legal member of my new family was itself a protection by law; however, this protection came at a cost of violating my other rights as a human being and a U.S. citizen.

 And the cycle continues.

My daughter, who is 8 years old, was adopted in the State of Ohio.  

Her birth certificate – her most important first piece of paper that tells her something about who she is and where she came from- is being held under lock and key at the Vital Statistics of the State of Ohio.   

She may be able to lay eyes upon it when she turns a certain age that Ohio deems appropriate.  But Ohio adoptees born between 1964 and 1996 cannot join my daughter in that right to obtain her original birth certificate.  

What the state of Ohio didn’t consider when creating their faulty laws is that now-adult adopted citizens who were deprived of life and liberty would never allow their own child to experience the same thing.  

I have a copy of my daughter’s original birth certificate sitting right next to me that does not include a legal fiction that I birthed her.   I have her amended birth certificate also sitting right next to me that shows I birthed her (it’s amazing how documents can change biology!).  

Lucky for my daughter, I ordered her birth certificate before her adoption was final.  I urge any adoptive parent who can, do the same. Or better yet, DEMAND from your attorney that you receive a copy before it’s sealed.

As an adopted U.S. citizen who is raising another adopted U.S. citizen, I will fight for my daughter’s civil, legal and human rights and those of other adopted citizens. 

Because as a U.S. Citizen, I find it abhorrent and unacceptable that the majority of states in this country continue, each day, with each new adoption, to steal somebody else’s birth right.


  1. I agree! Imagine how I feel -- I've learned that my ancestors were signers of the Declaration of Independence and the Consitution, as well as a Mayflower settler. I have more birthright to American history than most of these lawmakers.....and yet, they deny me. It's appalling!

  2. What a great summary of the impact of adoption laws on adoptees. I especially appreciate your commentary that highlights the fact that adoption law reform often continues the discrimination. My adoption was finalized in Ohio in Dec 1963. One month later, and I would not have been able to obtain a copy of my original birth certificate.

  3. Thanks for commenting, Becky! That is what I call the lucky lottery of adoption!! Some win while others lose!! Have you heard a new bill is coming in Ohio? I can send you details if you like.

  4. Lynn, I literally just stood up out of my chair and clapped with my hands over my head..TRUE STORY!! Congratulations, I am so proud of you for everything that went into writing this..article. I didn't say blog because you sited your sources! This is well written, crafted, articulated, researched, and one of the most accurate and innovative pieces of writing I have seen in quite some time. This is truly, truly, truly the future of effective legislative change! Citing Pettit v. Penn brought a tear to my eye..incredible!! Literally fist pumping right now!

    Here's the next step, my friend, and this is key to the entire operation. Although you make a Superb argument in regard to the State of Illinois depriving adoptees their right to their property, the State technically did not break any laws by doing so (I think)...hold that thought..I challenge you to find any and all laws which *specifically* state that adopted citizens are prohibited from accessing their OBC prior to the new law passing. If there is then there are laws that conflict and that is a major judicial issue. If there isn't a law that states the above, then no laws were broken...up until NOW.

    On the premise that IL did not have a law on the books that prohibited adoptees accessing their OBC prior to the law passing the State just screwed themselves. How? Why? The legislature made a law based upon belief rather than lawful facts. With the passage of the new OBC law, the State of IL clearly indicates, without ambiguity, that some adoptees are allowed to have their OBC and some are not! Or, some IL citizens are allowed to have their OBC and some are not! This circles right back to The Equal Protection Act of the 14th Amendment.."This clause means that states must apply the law equally and cannot discriminate against people or groups of people arbitrarily."

    And that, my friend is ONE..HUGE..legitimate civil rights issue with merit and substance based upon facts and NOT opinion!

  5. I SO agree! Legal rights to obtain one's ACCURATE record of birth should NOT trump the "wishes for privacy" that the child's biological parents may or may not have. That biological parent, should she or he wish to do so, may decline an ongoing relationship with that grown adopted child. But that person, as a US citizen, has every right to have that document that gives him or her the same information that every other birth certificate has.

    As an aside, I relinquished my daughter at birth to an open adoption. Not only do I have a copy of my daughter's original birth certificate, but her adoptive parents do as well.

  6. Hi Monika! I remember you from our conversations about my Paradox poem:) Thank you for reading and posting:)

  7. on July 2nd 2012 R.I. released the OBC for those R.I. born adoptees 25 yrs and older. However what i received was on as good as an ORIGINAL certified OBC before adoption became final. It was a photo copy of the OBC stamped with red ink "not for legal use" making it a disgrace in my opinion (although still having value of info contained within). I praise adoptive parents that take the time to set aside an OBC before the adoption becomes final. In addition to requesting / demanding a copy of the OBC before sealed speak with attorney about possibly NOT sealing the OBC. Some states have obscure adoption laws that may allow the OBC to remain unsealed however adoptive parents are never told / presented such option. If this is not an option obtain more the one copy of the OBC before sealed and store in DIFFERENT places.

  8. I don't know if there are words that can be said that properly convey to the non-adopted why this is so important to the adoptees out there. It just is. I never knew my heritage until I was 42 years old and now I am one of the very few adoptees out there that can finally embrace it and be who and what I am.

    I obtained my OBC through a truly absolute miracle and with the help of a truly beautiful search angel Laura, and her commitment to helping an absolute stranger on a moments notice and (truly) with the grace of God, stumbled upon information that led me to my birthmother. My birthmother signed paperwork finally allowing the release of my OBC. Without this miracle occurring,I would have lived my life never knowing my identity or my heritage...and neither would my children..or their children...or their children....

    A couple of years ago I went to the courthouse and filled out the paperwork to legally add my biological surname. Each and every time I sign or say my name now, it brings a smile to my face. The non-adopted cannot understand the feeling it gives to know something as simple as being able to know your name, your heritage, what contentment it brings. Something so simple as writing your last name...done completely mindlessly everyday by millions and completely taken for granted by most everyone, brings joy to me each and every time I do it. My children have embraced their new-found heritage with absolute pride and it warms my heart.

    I wish for all adoptees out there to be able to have the same. May one day we all find the words that can express why this is a need...that it's not about being weak, or insecure, or unhappy...that it's primal..and how can those that have it, judge, criticize or find it right to deny us our identity when they have never walked in our shoes? They can only speculate how they would feel...and speculation doesn't count. You have to live it.

    Forage on adoptees...a fight that is worth every effort....

    1. Colleen.. so wonderfully stated about how you can finally be who you are knowing who you are and where you came from. I feel exactly the same way. It's like a peace and/or feeling complete. Thank you for posting.

  9. So glad I read this today! My son's adoption will be finalized in a few weeks and it never occurred to me to get a copy of the original birth certificate. Sending a request right now!

    1. Vertical Mom - I'm sure one day your son will appreciate this act of love.
      Thank you for commenting!

  10. Norbert -i'm glad to hear you received your birth certificate from Rhode Island. Thank you for commenting.

  11. Great post, Lynn! Succinct and so well stated. You are a very effective advocate.

  12. Thank you, Susan! You are one my favorite bloggers so that means alot!

  13. I have all 3 of my childrens OBC's!! Norbert,I didn't know I could request them to remain unsealed, I wish I did and I would have. At least my children have their true beginnings and birthright.

  14. Whenever I read something like this, I'm always cognizant of what the opposition would say in a class action suit. They would point out that sealed records are an operation of law and do not require due process. Is due process required to deny a 17 year old the right to vote?

    This is from a successful NY court case (Matter of Victor M.I.I.). Although he granted the petition, the judge pointed out "why" sealed records were needed (with citations of previous cases).

    - to protect and insure confidentiality which is "vital to the adoption process"
    Which begs the question: WHY is this level of confidentiality (sealed records) "vital to the adoptive process"?

    - to provide anonymity to the natural parents
    Except that (as proven here) the prospective adoptive parents can easily get a copy of the records before they are sealed upon finalization of the adoption. I'm assuming that they can obtain these records without the permission of the natural parents.

    - [to] enable the adoptive parents to form a close bond with their adopted child
    Why would the lack of sealed records prevent that bond from forming? Once the child is an adult, this "purpose" goes out the window.

    - [to] protect the adopted child from possibly disturbing information that might be found in his records
    Another thing that goes out the window once the child becomes an adult.

    - [to] allow the state to foster an orderly and supervised adoption system
    The implication being that the state cannot ensure this unless the records are sealed. I challenge anyone to tell me why the STATE needs sealed records - and to do so without getting into circular logic.

    1. Thanks for pointing out the arguments, Gaye. I was unaware of many of the oppositions' points. In Doe v. Sundquist (Tennessee), the judges stated that birth parents' do not have a right to confidentiality. As you have pointed out, the oppositions' arguments just don't hold water, but I can see that reform is slow work as there are so many myths and ideas about adoption to combat. Thanks for commenting!

  15. This is such an important point: " I had no attorney of my own protecting my due process rights."


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