FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:
Texas Adoptee Rights Wins House Passage 144-1 for HB1386
In an incredible display of support, House Bill 1386, filed by Representative Cody Harris (R-Palestine) passed the TX House Friday, April 9th with a vote of 144-1. Adoption Knowledge Affiliates (AKA), along with other Texas adoptee rights advocates, most notably Support Texas Adoptee Rights (STAR) are advocating for the restoration of equal access to original birth certificates for adult adoptees born in Texas. Since 1997, every Texas legislative session has had a bill of this nature introduced by the adoption community for consideration. Members of AKA have been working to restore access to information for adoptees since 1992. The current bill is expected to affect over 800,000 Texas-born adoptees and has been streamlined to garner an even broader level of support. There is also a Senate companion bill, SB1877 this session.
Dr. Joellen Peters, STAR President and past AKA President is optimistic, saying,, "Adoptee advocates have been opening the hearts and minds of the Texas Legislature session after session. We hope that this session, with the swell of support across Texas, adopted adults will be given the right to their most basic identity information... their original birth certificate."
STAR, a 501c4, has spearheaded the legislative effort in recent years, picking up where TxCARE left off in 2007. Members of AKA, a 501c3 in Austin, TX, wanting to focus exclusively on adoptee rights issues, founded STAR in 2013. This includes several AKA past presidents and board members, all adoptees, birth parents and adoptive parents advocating for the same cause. Connie Gray is the founder and first president of STAR. Their early advocacy resulted in the filing of HB984, authored by Representative Joseph Deshotel (D-Beaumont), after meeting with advocates and attending Adoption Knowledge Affiliates' annual conference. HB984 passed the House 138-1. The bill was then picked up by Senator Brandon Creighton (R-Conroe). Both legislators successfully garnered broad bipartisan support in each chamber.
In 2019, Representative Gina Calanni (D-Katy), an adoptee, carried HB2725.
This session's bill sponsor, Representative Harris, has his own connection to adoption as an adoptive parent. He is passionate about adopted Texans having this right, which would include his daughter when she turns 18, as he so noted in the bill's Public Affairs hearing in March. The bill provides all adult adoptees born in Texas access to a non-certified copy of their original birth certificate.
Dawn Scott, former Vice President of STAR and former AKA President, had these words to share, "As an adoptive parent, today’s passage of HB1386 honors my daughter, who deserves all the pieces of her own story, beginning with her birth record, the definitive documentation that proves she was born Texan, born American. I am so grateful to Rep. Harris who has shown us that truth is the foremost legacy we owe our families."
AKA celebrates its 30th anniversary as a nonprofit in Austin, TX in 2022. Their mission is to bring all the voices of adoption together for connection, education, and support. According to Marci Purcell, AKA's Executive Director, "Members have been pushing to restore ease and equality of access for adoptees due to the many challenges they face for the entirety of those years...and then some."
Difficulties faced by adoptees without their information include the absence of family health history, which comes with financial and psychological burdens not faced by non-adopted citizens. Additional challenges include obtaining passports and other government documents, as well as the strain of not knowing who in the community may be a genetic relative. Although there is an arcane system in place through the courts and a state registry, these are cumbersome, expensive, and daunting. Many are unaccustomed to going before a judge and those deceased cannot register, leaving adoptees and their families without crucial answers.
Gladney Center for Adoption is the most recent heavy-hitter in the line-up of supporters, as noted in a recent Texas Monthly article. After decades of opposition this was a day advocates thought might never come, and many AKA members are still processing the news. Anne Bingham, former STAR board member, longtime AKA member, and peer support group facilitator for AKA had this to say in response, “As a birth mother who placed at Gladney, I’m heartened to see the organization understands that it is essential for adoptees to have access to their original birth certificates.” Also in support of the issue, Buckner Children and Family Services, The American Academy of Adoption & Assisted Reproduction Attorneys, The American Academy of Pediatrics, The National Association of Social Workers (NASW), and Concerned United Birth Parents (CUB) just to name a few. With so much support, AKA believes Texas can be the next state to remove the shame and stigma associated with closed records this session.
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