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New law on birth certificates

By FRITZ MAYER
Posted 11/20/19

ALBANY, NY — Gov. Andrew Cuomo signed a new law on November 19 that allows adoptees to get certified copies of their birth certificates when they turn 18. The law is intended to allow adoptees …

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New law on birth certificates

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ALBANY, NY — Gov. Andrew Cuomo signed a new law on November 19 that allows adoptees to get certified copies of their birth certificates when they turn 18. The law is intended to allow adoptees to have the same rights regarding their biological parents as other state residents have.

“Where you came from informs who you are, and every New Yorker deserves access to the same birth records—it’s a basic human right,” Gov. Cuomo said. “For too many years, adoptees have been wrongly denied access to this information, and I am proud to sign this legislation into law and correct this inequity once and for all.”

Before this legislation, government agencies were allowed to restrict information about an adoptees’ biological parents. That prevented many people from finding out about family medical histories and other relevant information.

Sen. Velmanette Montgomery said, “I am so proud to have been the Senate sponsor of the Clean Bill of Adoptee Rights, and I thank Governor Cuomo for signing this historic piece of legislation. This has been long overdue. We owe our success to the advocacy of thousands of adult adoptees who have fought tirelessly on this issue for over 20 years.

The level of support I received for this legislation from adult adoptees all across the state and the nation was astounding. It is important that they have the right to seek answers about their health, their family history and their heritage.”

A local resident reacts

One resident who has been working on this for decades is John Kearney. His mother remarried when he was four years old, and this stepfather adopted him and his four siblings, and their last name became Gleason. In a response to a question from The River Reporter, Kearney said that his stepfather was abusive, and he resented having to be called by his name for most of his childhood and much of his adult life.

Kearney remarried in 1986, and took back his birth name, which was allowed under state law. He wrote, “My Social Security card says Kearney, my driver’s license says Kearney, and even my passport says Kearney,” but he still could not get his birth certificate with the name Kearney on it.

Kearney said he has a great relationship with his birth father, and he said state officials said they notified his birth father about the adoption, although state documentation says “real father not notified.” He said he has been waiting 40 years for this legislation to be signed.

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