From Clean to Dirty to Dead

By Gregory D. Luce on April 18, 2016 — 1 min read

It’s time to kill the Missouri “adoptee rights” bill. It may have been time to do so a month ago, and I admit I may have been wrong and even naive to think the bill stood a chance of being cleaned up. Instead, it continues to go south, and may even get worse.

If you are text-impaired and wondering what’s going on and cannot figure it all out by trying to keep up with the various changes to the bill, then here’s a quick infographic breakdown. I hope it visualizes what is happening and how language in the bill has been added or changed over time. If you click on any of the circles, it should bring up the text of the bill at that time, just in case you need to verify that I have it all shipshape. I’m also ignoring provisions in the bill that are minor or not critically related to access to an original birth certificate.

There are a few other things in the bill that have also been amended or added since its introduction, like medical history provisions and extending out access to birth certificates to January 2018 “to allow time for birth parents to file a contact preference form.” But the main problem continues, and that is a zombie disclosure veto and no apparent or real strategy to deal with the “left behinds” other than likely also making them forgotten left behinds.

Pull the bill now. Talk candidly with the sponsor, who is an adoptee, and figure out a way to pull the bill and fight a different fight another day, presumably next year or the year after. We cannot continue to enshrine—at birth and with an adoption agency’s direction—the notion that birth parents have a right to instill secrecy. Enough is enough.

Issues: Adoptees

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  • Thank you for the “executive summary”. While there are many who can and do read the actual bills AND understand them, far too many need to have it shown to them and explained in plain English.

    Now no one can argue what the bill did (in its original form) that is completely different now.

    I also like your term “zombie disclosure veto”. It has a nice ring to it.

    I’m hoping we DON’T have to do an infographic like this for New York.

  • It’s a shame! You really have no clue and choose not to try. Gregory Luce, you have my contact information and you have not even given a courtesy call. This information is horribly inaccurate. Do your homework sweetheart 😉

      • No it’s straight out of a copy of proposed amendments. Like I said, you know how to reach me. I don’t care if you like what I have to say. But I do care when the reporting is not factual.

        • I really don’t understand why Heather keeps lying.

          All of the information in Greg’s post can be verified by looking on the Missouri Legislative website with the exception of the Senate Substitute, which is not yet on the website, but was obtained directly from the Senate committee staff in accord with the state’s sunshine laws. This is the Senste Substitute as it passed out of committee. These are not “proposed amendments”, it’s the current substitute bill. Of course it could be amended further, but this is the bill right now.

          Heather said the same exact thing about 1599 when it was amended with a disclosure veto, claiming only she knew what was going on. It’s just bizarre.

          No one needs to call you, Heather, to know what is currently in the bill. This is all a public process and public information *by law*. And your history of “factual reporting” is non existent.

        • And yet you wonder why we mock you. You are either in way over your head because of ignorance or you are deceiving the members who placed their trust in you. Do the right thing and work to kill this travesty.

        • It’s the real deal. It’s been reported out as DO PASS from the committee, April 13, 2016, with inclusion of a zombie disclosure veto (one that goes beyond death) and the extension of time to January 2018 to allow birth parents to file their vetoes/preference forms. It’s on the Senate bill reporting system here, plus reflected in the actual amendments that I’ve linked to above.

          • You act as though this is the final language. Why don’t you take your blogging skills and encourage people to get behind the man who is trying to get adoptees a clean bill? Instead, you rally against him and make it 10 times harder for him to work with the legislators who don’t want this bill. Is there anyone here smart enough to realize that we could still end up with a great piece of legislation if people would get off their ass and put the effort behind Rep. Phillips instead of working against him? It’s no wonder that so little has been accomplished in the last two decades.

          • I know it’s not the final language, but it is the language moving forward and, though I guess we can hope it will be removed and made clean again, it seems very late in the process to do that. And if there is a larger, broader strategy to convince us and legislators otherwise, please lay that strategy out. If you and other groups ask for assistance from adoptees, be honest about what overall strategy exists and what we, as adoptee advocates, will see in return for our support. And be honest about what the actual bill does.

            I don’t doubt that you have spent years on this. I don’t doubt you have people working with you who are committed to passing a bill. I don’t doubt that energy and investment exists from various people in Missouri. But it’s OK—honorable even—to say ‘enough is enough’ and to pull the bill before gambling on changes that appear highly unlikely to happen. Gambling now is a high risk endeavor that may likely make things worse—i.e., after your sponsor and your supporters celebrated a unanimous committee vote that made this bill much worse, the door to loading the bill with further bad provisions is now wide open.

            For what it’s worth, I asked here that MARM have a candid conversation with the sponsor and that, based on what we can see from outside the process, ask him to figure out how to pull the bill. I haven’t ranted and raved. I haven’t booed. I’ve laid out what I can see. Representative Phillips should be commended for introducing a clean bill. But he should know that many adoptees do not see this as a positive bill anymore, and we should know—from you and from Representative Phillips— if there is an actual realistic implementable strategy moving forward that addresses all that has gone bad.

          • He is not rallying against anybody, but is giving you and others the facts. It is not about them vs us, but about the facts. That is all. I do not understand why you are trying to mislead people, Heather? Do you not understand what is happening? Catholic charities certainly does and we need an adoptee rights movement that also does in order to fight them.

    • Why in the world would he call you? To help him with his reading comprehension? And why aren’t you responding to questions about this mess on your own site? Your absence is glaring. Don’t you have a duty to keep your members informed of the amendments to the bill?

  • It’s been reported that at least one more agency amendment will be offered. This can only get worse. MARM continues to stonewall.

  • A full 3 days ago, Jean Ulrich, director of CalOpen posted a perfectly polite and reasonable question on the MARM FB page:

    Will anyone in MARM speak to the bill and the latest Senate Committee Substitute, LR 4581S.04C?? For those that attended the April 5th hearing, can you please identify what the adoption agencies wanted, but were not provided in the substitute? I ask, because I am pretty certain that is the amendment that will show up on the floor during Perfection. I want to talk about the bill please, on the sponsoring organizations facebook page.

    As I post this comment there has been no response from MARM. 3 days!

    I am absolutely baffled at the silence and total disregard and irresponsibility you have shown toward your members and friends. Even supporters are calling for the bill’s death now, yet you continue to stonewall. Your actions are a disgrace and an embarrassment to the real adoptee rights movement and harm the movement nationwide. Why should your members as well as other adoptee rights organizations throughout the country come to Bastard Nation–and they are– to learn the status of your bill?

    Please unbaffle me!

    • That’s right Marley. I should have skipped visiting with legislators and canceled support group meetings because I was supposed to drop everything and answer to the concerns of California and Ohio and Hawaii. So sorry I spent my time helping Missouri people and talking to Missouri Legislators. I forgot the pecking order here. Shame on me.

      • You really should change your name from the Missouri Adoptee Rights Movement to Mommies Against the Release of MyDocuments. This bill has nothing to do with adoptee rights. It puts them in a worse legal position than they were in to start with. But what do you expect from someone without a real connection to adoption?

      • Do I need to remind you, Heather, that you, as the so-called MARM leader, have a responsibility to your members and supporters to keep them truthfully and accurately updated timely? You have not done that. You had 3 days to respond to a simple question, and longer than that to explain the sub bill. How long would that have taken this weekend? 3 minutes? 5 minutes? 10 minutes? I suspect, you were not walking the halls in Jeff City over the weekend. Certainly if you didn’t have the time yourself, one of your “assistants” could do the job.
        Is it possible that you do not understand the legislative process in Missouri? Or that LR 4581S.04C is what we are even talking about? It may not be up on the MO leg website yet, but it was certainly available for the asking. If CalOpen could get a copy of it, MARM certainly could. This bill is not going to get better. You rolled over long time ago and lost all respect of lawmakers and the adoptee equality movement. The only upside of this is that you have nailed your own coffin shut. No one will ever trust you again.

        • I find it ironic that you of all people think you have a ‘right’ to remind Heather of her leadership obligations and responsibilities. Before you go passing judgement- clean up your own house.

          • Yes, please, tell us how our leadership has failed in their obligations and responsibilities. Our leadership juggles multiple states at a time and has always been upfront about the current state of legislation, along with providing links to that information (opposed to hiding it or claiming it doesn’t exist). Every stakeholder has a “right” to remind leadership when they are failing, and in this adoptees are the stakeholders.

          • Really? What has BN accomplished in the last years except to divide a community? As promised, you continue to dive into the final hours of a state’s bill and either posture yourselves as martyrs or crusaders to keep up the ratings. You invest in no capital for your non-profit and in fact, had to ask for donations to attend the AAC in Denver. Rather than spending hours in the asylum discussing how to dismantle MARM or make horrible comments about it’s leadership, why don’t you clean up your act and make a difference. You might start enjoying life as human beings and not a Bastards.

          • I don’t get the continued comments about an organization’s “capital” or lack of funds. Bastard Nation does not charge membership dues. MARM doesn’t either, as far as I can tell. Both organizations—actually, probably almost all organizations dedicated to adoptee rights—have basically zero money in the bank. Who cares, other than it sure would be nice to have a fully-funded national organization that is adoptee-driven and dedicated exclusively to adoptee rights.

            I enjoy my life—as a bastard and as a human being. I cannot change the fact that I was born a bastard. I can either embrace it and turn it on its head and reappropriate it more positively, or I guess I could reject it and cover it up and try to forget about it. I choose to embrace it and use it as a way of making people understand who we are and from where we came. And unless you are one of “us” my guess is that the term bastard will largely be misconstrued as negative and offensive. I’m finding that most people who are offended by the term are not bastards. So be it, but it also serves to clarify that some people also don’t get it.

          • As usual, MC posts disparaging remarks after the bars close…

            That said, outsiders have no idea what funds Bastard Nation has or doesn’t have. We did away with membership fees quite awhile ago when there wasn’t much going on legislatively in any state (things really starting heating up in the last two years). We had a very dedicated group of Bastards who pledged to cover our organization’s operating expenses because it didn’t seem fair to charge fees when there was nothing going on to show for it.

            Any funds we have collected in donations or from the Boutique have gone to our Who’s Next? fund. While some organizations have budgets that include money to send representatives to conferences, the money in that fund is not designated for that purpose. Conferences can be expensive—between airfare, hotel and conference fees, this conference cost around 2500 for two people. Every position in Bastard Nation is filled by volunteers. None of us get stipends or salaries. So that’s quite a big out-of-pocket expense, while quite a few of the conference-goers were sponsored by their organizations.

            As for the last allegation MC makes, we support all clean legislation in any state. We supported MARM’s efforts until the bill became dirty. Then we worked to kill it. That’s what our mission is. Equal rights and access for ALL adoptees.

            We’d much rather be using our resources to introduce clean legislation in states, instead of having to spend our time and energy killing bad bills. It’s a lot sexier and a hell of a lot more fun.

          • Oh look, it took Mary right up until the end of the session to show up and accuse us of being divisive and late to the party. For the record, Mary, it takes two to be divisive. I could just as easily argue that it is the compromisers who are being divisive by not getting on board with us, but I don’t because it serves no purpose. It’s right in line with your preferred tactic of wasting time and name calling though. Continue whipping that word “Bastard” at us, as if it isn’t a name we have embraced and openly own. Maybe one day you’ll find someone whose feelings are hurt by it as much as your own apparently are. Sorrynotsorry it makes you uncomfortable. It’s not for you.

            “Sometimes it is better to light a flamethrower than curse the darkness.” Terry Pratchett

      • Except that you’re not helping Missouri adoptees either, Heather. You are not being honest about what the bill says. You make up arguments to suit you that are incoherent and have no evidence or faulty evidence to back them up. You have told me–and I am a Missouri adoptee who will be affected by this mess–that I have no place commenting or doing anything because I haven’t been in Jeff City with you. You have no concept of the rules of rhetoric or of politics.

        Yes, shame on you. You need to stop pretending that this is “beautiful” legislation; that you hold all the keys and knowledge; that the basis of this political endeavour is finding common ground for everyone. It’s about EQUALITY. FOR ADOPTEES. That’s it.

        You have made it abundantly clear that it’s not about adoptee equality for you. Not in the slightest.

        • What legislative successes do you have to share? Can I call my friends living in Missouri and ask them, ‘did you receive your OBC in the mail yet?’ If not, sit down and take a back seat. What have you done today to promote adoptee equality except to complain.

          • Quick question, Mary… Who exactly do you think you are to tell ANY adoptee, much less one from Missouri to “sit down and take a back seat?” That would be your spot, as a non-adoptee. Just curious. It might help us figure out exactly what in the hell is wrong with you.

  • “sweetheart”…condescending much? Mr Luce has direct links to support his writings…how can it be inaccurate?

  • Yesterday, one of the legislators started talking about the bill that was going through in 2000. He remembered how intense it was. He also agreed that the reason the bill did not go through is that people were not willing to compromise. As a result, we are still asking for birth certificates 16 years later. How many adoptees have died without knowing their information in the last 16 years?

    When we finally got the bill moved over to the Senate this year, there were a number of people telling the Senators to kill the bill. They could have put their weight behind our sponsor and told the senators that they support Representative Phillips and they would like to see the senate make the bill better. But NOOOO! Instead, they put out a call to action for people to attack one of the senators on the committee because she voiced her concerns for birth parents. If you were a senator, would that make you want to work for the bill or against the bill? We have birth/first parents in our organization, who have been 100% dedicated to fighting for adoptee rights, who were trying to help educate this senator and others but their efforts were thwarted by angry adoptees who obviously do not understand that you will not win the favor of a legislator by ganging up on them.

    Now here we are with a bill that has passed out of the committee. We are still communicating with Senators about potential amendments in the Perfection Process. This is a process where the language we are most concerned with could still be removed. Why is it that people would rather rant and rave and tell them to KILL THE BILL instead of putting a little heart and soul into contacting the legislators and saying “I support what Representative Phillips is asking for!” Representative Phillips is an Adopted Adult who made this piece of legislation his #1 priority. He is doing all that he can to help Missouri Adoptees. Do you really think he is asking them for these restrictive amendments? If you truly believe in adoptee rights you should be backing Representative Phillips and going after the Agencies that are getting behind the restrictive language.

    Are you really going to boo him if he is only able to help 99% this year after he has had to battle with agencies and “all or nothing” adoptees who are too lazy to put some actual work into backing him up? Is it really time to throw in the towel and go back to 0%?

    • How many adoptees have died? The same number that will die over the next 16 years. Nothing about this bill is going to change that. Nothing about OBCs will change that. It is amazing that you still continue to cling to what is easily the weakest argument I have ever heard in adoptee rights. It does belie your motivation though – making sure your mother gets her BC and everyone else be damned. Tell us again how hard all the birthmothers are working for adoptee rights while you and your lobbyist make it publicly known that you are dutifully working to establish previously non-existent birthparent anonymity rights. Meanwhile, I will watch all the birthmothers I see work to kill this bill because they readily acknowledge they have no such right. If you really believe only 1% will be left behind under this zombie DV, your understanding of basic math mirrors your understanding of activism and legislation. You can’t even keep your story straight. The amendments aren’t really there, but you’re working hard to change them. Why would you work hard to get rid of something that didn’t exist? You say it’s the agencies that are the enemy, but you believe the bill provides “balance” between the rights of adoptees and the soon-to-exist new right of birthparents. You say everyone should have the right to their BC and then you say birth parents should have the right to make sure some don’t get their BC. Is it exhausting talking out both sides of your mouth? Or have you done it for so long that you’re accustomed to it? And how about your constant unfounded accusations? Who “ganged up” on and “attacked” a legislator? Was that legislator accosted? Harrassed? I’m sure you can provide a link to the news story covering such behaviour. No news organization in the country would let such a thing go uncovered. How about the “call to action” to attack a legislator? Surely you can provide proof of that. In fact, you would have a legal and moral obligation to provide that evidence if there were rowdy bands of angry adoptees foaming at the mouth while roaming the capital and attacking legislators. Take your time gathering said evidence. I’ll wait.

    • Ms Dodd,
      Thank you for all your work and effort to help restore adult adoptees’ civil rights. It appears that your voice or reason is not getting through to these Bastards. They are living up to their name and you have work to do. Keep it going!

      • It is not a restored civil right unless everyone is equal. Leaving some adoptees in a worse legal position than you found them is not reasonable, especially when they didn’t elect you or give you permission to be their voice. Considering that a good many of MARM’S members and leadership have now bailed from the organization, it seems that Bastards aren’t the only ones who aren’t supporting this bill. Or Heather Dodd.

        • Restoring and gaining civil rights has been an uphill struggle and process in our American history, which is why it is termed a civil rights movement: a dynamic progression which doesn’t happen at one moment but rather, over the course of time. Since 2000, around 22,000 adult adoptees have received their OBC as a result of ‘clean’ bills and in 2016, 440,000 plus Ohio adoptees have gained access to their true identities as a result of what you term a ‘dirty’ bill. To deny so many Americans this right is wrong and self-serving.

          • Tell that to those who will actually be harmed, ie; deliberately put in a worse position legally and labeled “insignificant”. Especially by someone who wasn’t even elected or given permission to bargain away THEIR civil rights.

  • Yes, shame on you. The “pecking order” when it comes to adoptee records access legislation is 1. ADOPTEES 2. Everyone else.

    You see where you are in that pecking order?

    When it comes to this or any other adoptee records access bill, when it comes to any adoptee rights issue, the concerns and opinions of an actual adoptee, whether in California, Hawaii, Ohio, or Timbuktu, matter more than yours.

    Moreover, nice try, but you’ve been ignoring and/or lying to adoptees in and from Missouri for weeks as well. You haven’t exercised any geographic discernment in your prevarication and disingenuousness.

    Lastly, apparently you need to be reminded that this is a civil rights issue. You actually have had the temerity to describe yourself as a civil rights organization. But then you have the audacity to declare that you are not accountable to adoptees everywhere? Do you even know what ‘civil rights’ mean?

    For once in this mess you have created, so the right thing. Talk to your sponsor. Pull your support of this bill. Get out. And next time, leave the adoptee rights activism to adoptees.

  • I am deeply troubled by the overall tone of disrespect of the discourse in the comments here. Speculating on the personal, dark motives of people who disagree with your legislative strategy is misguided, paranoid and unhelpful. It is unlikely to improve the lot of the vast majority of adoptees who are relying on all of us to lead the charge for equal rights. Instead, it turns people off and limits the pool of people who are willing to become politically engaged.

    There are very bright minds writing here. Must we continue to muddy the waters and poison the well with ad hominem attacks? STOP IT.

    On the substantive questions raised, I’ve been in the trenches like Heather is now and I completely understand her time constraints. This blog and this conversation is, IMO, rightly secondary to her at the moment. Our Connecticut bill passed our House and Senate at 1:00 and 2:00 am after GRUELING weeks of grassroots lobbying. It’s fine to disagree with her legislative strategy but she’s in the trenches now and we are not. I wouldn’t be spending much time here either if it was the last few days/weeks of the session.

    Greg has rightly attempted to engage in a conversation with some of the best and most legislatively experienced adoptee rights people in the nation about what tactics to pursue. We have lots of difficulties. We need a team of lawyers as well as advocates who actually know the nitty gritty political/legislative situations in respective their states to participate in frank and honest discussion. We need people to be able to disagree without wasting their time and energy being demonized, shamed and attacked.

    Greg, I do see that you are at the heart of the issue. Should the bill be pulled because it may be passed with some egregious non-disclosure provisions? What risks are being taken by attempting to keep cleaning it up rather than pull it? When, if at all, will the sponsor lose control over the bill and might it get passed against his wishes? And, SHOULD it get passed even with non-disclosure provisions because it is better to have such a bill than wait one year (five years, ten years, forever?) to get a better bill? (The deepest underlying division.) Advocates like us are as rare as four leaf clovers. Do you see how few states have adoptee rights organizations? How poor the progress has been over recent decades? It is a very reasonable IMO to consider action, even possibly prejudicial action, when the outlook is arguably so bleak.

    Let’s focus on the QUESTIONS and the ISSUES.

    • From what I have read, lawyer, Mr. Luce, is recommending that this bill be pulled. He is an adoptee and knows constitutional law much better than I do and much better than the members of MARM. I do not know it Representative Phillip’s background is in law or not, but Mr. Luce may even know the legislative process and future ramifications of this bill better than Representative Phillips. Due to the professional advice MARM has been given by several individuals, they need to stop support for this bill immediately. It does not matter who they like or don’t like or who they believe they are attacked by. It is about the future of adoptee rights. Next year, perhaps with better legal help, MARM will be able to pass a clean bill. If not next year, the following year. It can take many years to pass legislation. Next year, I would like to investigate each senator and where they receive their campaign funding to perhaps expose individual biases towards Catholic charities and Lutheran family services. I believe that would help push a clean bill through.

    • Who is speculating? Everything said here has appeared on the record and in print. Did all that work on the CT bill magically turn it clean after it had been deformed beyond all reason? Can you name one bill that has been redeemed after having gotten to this point and at this stage in the process? Are you really asking if it is better to permanently seal some people’s birth certificates away for eternity? Beyond death?

    • I don’t see anyone being disrespectful or speculating on “dark motives.” In fact, I don’t think anyone has “dark motives.” All I see is an unpleasant, amalgamation of incompetence, colonialism, and not-adopted saviorism gutting the few rights Missouri adoptees still have all in the name of “good intentions” Well, we know where that road leads.

      Justice movements are constantly under co-option by colonialists, do-gooders, feel-gooders, marginal interests, and the actual enemy. We will always fight when “they” come for Class Bastard. Why shouldn’t individuals or organizations be demonized for mucking around with our rights—especially when they aren’t even adopted? What’s going down in Missouri harms the entire movement. And it’s got to stop now.

    • 1. Should the bill be pulled because it may be passed with some egregious non-disclosure provisions? Yes.

      2. What risks are being taken by attempting to keep cleaning it up rather than pull it? When it passes unanimously out of committee after adding a zombie veto—and is celebrated by supporters for that passage—the risks appear to be pretty significant.

      3. When, if at all, will the sponsor lose control over the bill and might it get passed against his wishes? That’s something I wish we all had more information about, directly from MARM. That is, what is the limit of compromise? Is there a kill switch on any issue? What are the upfront parameters, if any, that are guiding this bill? In other words, what’s the frequency, Kenneth?

      4. And, SHOULD it get passed even with non-disclosure provisions because it is better to have such a bill than wait one year (five years, ten years, forever?) I haven’t seen a convincing argument yet on this issue that a better bill, at least in Missouri, is unattainable in the near future. If that’s the case, someone needs to make the case for it. But did MARM make progress in introducing a clean bill? Absolutely.

      5. Do you see how few states have adoptee rights organizations? How poor the progress has been over recent decades? Yes. Generally, adoption agencies continue to control the narrative and are not accountable for all that they hide. And, I may be wrong about this, but it feels like the tide is starting to turn.

      • By the way, HB1599 has now been reported out of committee and placed on the calendar for third reading in the Senate. It still has all the things that made it go bad.

  • Is MARM an adoptee equality organization?

    An adoptee equality organization owes to its members and constituents transparency, honesty, and communication. It should be run by adoptees, not adoptive parents, birthparents, or the not-adopted in general who have no dog in the fight. An adoptee equality organization should lay out publicly its legislative philosophy—its mission, goals, and general strategies. Importantly, it should divulge its policy on compromise legislation; that is, what would be a reasonable compromise (ex: age qualification, a genuine CPF, effective date). Crucially, it should state with no doubt that it will pull support from a bill that goes south with DVs, CVs redactions, tiered access, or other restrictions If an organization refuses to be comply with a public statement, then red flags fly.

    MARM has shown no interest in making a public commitment to unrestricted OBC access.

    Below is Bastard Nation’s “No Veto” Resolution/partnership agreement which lays out our mission and strategy as well as partner and BN expectations and responsibilities. It’s a two-way street. MARM refused to endorse either by an official resolution/ partnership agreement, which is certainly within its rights, or through an independent statement which would have informed interested parties on policy, well within the rights adoptee expectations.

    MARM has failed to perform the simplest duties of an adoptee equality organization. Instead it has mis- and dis-informed both Missouri adoptees and the national adoptee equality movement, remained silent when asked to clarify bill details and status, dismissed questions and complaints with a we-know-what-we’re-doing-and you-don’t wave of the hand, and over-all run an amateur operation. Handing out candy? Pul-eeze. Does anyone reasonably believe, as MARM claims, that Missouri leggies are blithering imbeciles who spend their days reading (and getting upset over) Facebook comments and getting confused when presented with divergent views on OBC access –and I assume any other issue?

    One has only to look at the history of Missouri adoptee equality legislation over the last 20+ years to know that adoption agencies—particularly Catholic Charities—control the narrative and therefore power in the legislature. There is no reason to believe that the original HB1599 would pass unscathed, through the gate, but we gave MARM props for trying. Perhaps their is a God. I believe, however, that from the beginning MARM knew that a clean bill wouldn’t fly and their Plan B, C or X would replace it, including a class action suit. Now we have MARM acquiescing to agency demands rooted in shame, secrets and lies that exceed even demands of traditional opposition such as the National Council for Adoption which has incidentally pretty much given up the fight against us.

    The only upside to this fiasco is that MARM has nailed its own coffin with its duplicity and silence. The bill needs to die and replaced by adoptee-centric activists and organizers who know what they are doing.

    • Marley,

      1. In Connecticut at least, there would be no adoptee rights organization without non-adoptees being involved. There aren’t enough of us. There haven’t been for forty years. Period. To limit our group to adoptees only would effectively end adoptee rights efforts in CT. I say this as someone who has been supportive of and involved in the CT adoptee rights community on and off for most of those four decades, including a stint being a supporter of BN in the 90s. Frankly, if there were any BN adoptees in CT their position on unrestricted access would fit in fine with us. We are trying to finish the job and extend access to the pre-1983 adoptees.

      2. Also in Connecticut, Marley, you were personally aware of and included in our compromise discussions to accept and advocate for a tiered access bill (which passed in 2014 restoring unrestricted access to post-October 1, 1983 adult adoptees). You and I emailed specifically re: the compromise on the week-end when our group had to decide how to proceed and whether to try to pull the bill. I’m happy to produce the emails. You knew this was is part of our larger, long term, incremental strategy to restore access to all adoptees. You, neither personally nor as a representative of BN, submitted testimony against it nor took any other action to defeat it, despite being fully apprised of it. Perhaps your/BN’s position has changed since 2014 and perhaps you never told the others at BN about the conversations we had. That would be fine. People are allowed to evolve their positions. But as far as I am concerned your silence in 2014 constituted tacit support of our tiered access compromise, even if your position is different now.

      3. I would not, as President and a Director of Access Connecticut, recommend our organization affiliate with BN via their pledge/partnership. Not because I do not share the goal of equal, unrestricted access. But because the repeated public conduct of BN representatives violates our Rules of Conduct which govern not only our meetings and writings, but our relationships with legislators. Thus I do not necessarily interpret an organization’s refusal to sign the BN pledge as evidence of their stand on adoptee rights. It may simply be their stand on BN.

      • (1) Show me where I or any of our Executive Committee has ever suggested that BN and other adoptee equality organizations should not accept assistance from bparents, aparents, and others? BN membership is full of the not-adopted. BN is adoptee founded, organized and led. The not-adopted are our allies, and know how to act as allies. Please tell me what you find objectionable with this set-up? I once had a friend whose husband told me seriously the problem with women’s rights is that the movement wasn’t led by men. Are you suggesting that Black Lives Matter or AIM should be led by white saviors?

        (2) Yes, and I never told you that we would support your compromise. As someone who holds down 2 jobs plus BN I do and did not have time to cover every issue. I have documentation, too.

        (3) Bastard Nation has always had respectful and collegial relationships with leggies. In fact, recently, a couple leggies asked us for t-shirts. We would not have gotten clean bills passed in states if we didn’t have in a professional manner. Please document examples. I know you are also a therapist but here’s a newsflash. Politics is not therapy. If that’s what you’re looking for, get out of the Statehouse and back to the couch. BTW, none of us has ever rolled around the Great Seal of any state; much less posted a picture doing it.

        • Y’know, I have to weigh in quickly here. We’re all doing double duty, triple duty, as professionals in some other field and then finding the time as volunteers hoping to do something toward adoptee rights. Whether you are a therapist, lawyer, writer, rodeo clown, roustabout, or underemployed barista, it shouldn’t really matter. Politics is politics, sure. But we can strive to be civil, especially between folks who tend to be working toward the same general goal. I try to be fair about this on this blog, rarely block comments, but have declined to approve a select few that went over the line, either in unfairly lambasting BN, insulting individuals, or doing whatever to make a point. Fair enough?

          • All seriousness aside, I do have to say I may never post a fun picture of myself again. And I was lying down on the star, not rolling around in it. ;-). I’m told that’s what the school kids do on their visits. Kind of a rite of passage. Gotta enjoy life sometimes. When Texas gets a clean access bill passed I may go back and do it again.

      • Ms.Caffrey, you are either ignoring or unaware of one extremely important difference between Access CT and MARM. Access CT did not approach BN asking for help and specifically, partnership privileges and then refuse to sign the “No Veto Resolution” on the grounds that BN should take your (as Access CT’s leadership) word. MARM did. The differences weren’t over what BN expects if a bill goes “dirty” or the help BN provides, in return. No, Heather and Deb felt “insulted” because they were being asked to sign a non-legally binding “good faith” pledge. When it was explained that BN leadership has a responsibility to its members and partner groups when it comes to the wise distribution of resources. Heather and Deb expressed that their past actions of not compromising should be enough.

        (Note:BN does not charge dues. A few members have volunteered to help with orginizational expenses. Members of the Executive Committee, Legislative Commitee, and Committee Advisor(s) are volunteers. Funds from Bastard Boutique go towards the “Who’s Next?” campaign.)

        Other differences being ignored are that at no time has Access CT ever promoted veto legislation as “a beautiful thing”. Has Access Ct said that it felt a compromise was necessary? Yes. However, the description of doing so was not that it was a “beautiful” act. Nor does Access CT shut down dialogue with adult adoptees through telling them that if they aren’t lobbying in the capitol halls then they need to be quiet, call adult adoptees names or attempt to diagnose them as having RAD based on a difference of opinion, delete non-confrontational posts asking questions, or simply refuse to answer questions. Nor has Access CT leadership blatantly denied information easily found on the state’s legislative website or obtained through a simple phone call to a legislator as being “accurate”. As far as I know, Access CT has never started a group whose aim was for a class action suit and then had rumors circulate the capitol halls about such an action just prior (less than 48 hours) to going into a committee Hearing, either. And although there is a photo of you laying on the TX capitol floor, your normal legislative advocating outfit has at no time included a stuffed monkey or wearing a fake moustache to drum home the fact that adult adoptees should not be treated as perpetual children. These are all things MARM leadership has done, condoned, or continues doing.

        When CT’s bill went south, who was the very first group letting everyone know? Access CT. When MO’s bill went south, who let it be known? Cal-Open (a BN partner group) and BN after allowing MARM several hours opportunity to do so. MARM’s response? To state that it was still a “clean” bill and prompt membership support! The refusal to answer questions or clarify the bill’s correct status is nothing new. And it most certainly is not because it is the session’s final weeks. The problem has existed since February! If a group has time to post erroneous information regarding other state’s legislative efforts, the latest interview one of them has done, or support group links; is it asking too much that the group’s leadership post pertinent information and answer questions regarding their own bill?

  • MARM’s lobbyist, a birthparent, posted a photo of herself at the Capitol yesterday lobbying the bill and lauded it for protecting birthparent privacy. Heather has gone to the media describing the bill as a “beautiful thing” because it balances the interests of all triad members (even though she isn’t one). So, any assertion or implication by MARM that their intent is to remove the disclosure vetoes at this stage is false (putting aside the issue of feasibility, which is nil).

    As far as Ms. Caffrey repetitively pushing her Rules of Conduct and tone policing BN and individuals, it is an incredibly useless waste of time. I have been part of successful political organizing in many different areas, including high level political campaigns, for more than 20 years, and nearly every organization and group I’ve been a part of breaks every single one of those “Rules” every day. No swearing? That one would get you laughed out of serious political organizing everywhere. Ron Morgan, who does political organizing for a living has commented similarly. The Rules read like something that should be posted at a daycare, not constantly waved about around adults in the context of serious legislative, policy, and political discussion. If that’s the way you want to run your group, that’s your business, but the hawking of them on longtime, successful, experience activists who find them ridiculous, needs to stop.

    I do agree with Mr. Luce that the tide is turning in many states as far as traditional opposition dropping their objections. Not all, but many. The biggest hindrance to adoptee equality in my opinion is the AAC, Ms. Caffrey and her cohorts, state groups like MARM and STAR, who view legislative activism as a way to further their search and reunion agendas, and also see individual bills as belonging to them. Bills don’t belong to anyone. They are not lifetime achievement awards. They aren’t what you get as a trophy for your years of hard work. Basically we have redactions in Ani now that we’ll probably get rid of because the entrenched activists were too old and tired to wait out Christie for a few years and cut a deal screwing over the left behinds. Once a bill is in play, it concerns all adoptees and therefore becomes all of ours to support or oppose. Yes, ideally we’d all work together, but that is not possible when one group, like MARM, is not only not adoptee led, but their spokespeople are in support of vetoes as birthparent “privacy” protection. Then, you’re no different than “the agencies” or other traditional opposition. In fact you’re worse, because you’re pushing this legislation under the banner of adoptee rights.

    Lastly if you can’t understand the difference between being a good ally (which is a relationship that develops from mutual consent) and a colonizer, you have no business in legislative activism.

    I will again call on the AAC, all state affiliates, and any and all groups and individuals who are not willing to commit to a no-veto resolution and who are in the business of adoptee records access legislation, to step aside and stop littering the nation with bills that are only setting back adoptee equality at a time when circumstances seem to indicate we should be making progress.

  • I want to add, for all the talk from Heather about how she’s working for Missouri adoptees, in recent days, several actual Missouri adoptees and members of MARM have expressed concern about the bill and what’s happening, including this comment from a member of MARM’s own Board of Directors:

    “This is why, currently, members of MARM’s FB group Missouri Adoptee Rights Board of Directors (which none of are elected, the board has never held a vote, recorded meeting minutes, etc) are being strong armed out of the group. I’m a MO born adoptee. When I placed my concerns and specifically asked for a contingency plan and stated that I could not support the bill any longer I was attacked. It’s a mad house and no one has a voice. This has gone too far. I have left MARM bc there IS no 501c3. No votes. No democracy. No opinions allowed. An admitted and only strategy of solely counting on Don Philips. That’s not legislative action. That’s stupidity.”

    So it appears it is not only BN and Missouri Open who have a problem with what is happening in Missouri.

    Rather than tone policing, I think we should call on groups professing to be adoptee rights groups, to have a clear and transparent mission statement, a detailed plan of action, as Mr. Luce mentions, an upfront and frank disclosure of what is and isn’t on the table. If you as a group want to make a case that a clean bill is unattainable in x state and so vetoes are the only way to go, while I will never agree, at a minimum I think you should be required to make that case beforehand. Who have you sat down with? Who is your opposition? What resources do you have? What’s your precious legislative experience? Do you know your state legislatures rules and calendar?

    In MARM’s case had they done their homework instead of relying on the Great Man strategy and handing it all off to their sponsor to deal with and simply asking everyone to trust him, maybe this would have gone differently. A good sponsor is very important, but they are just one piece of the puzzle and they can’t dictate your terms as adoptee rights activists.

    And I’ll say it again, adoptee rights must be adoptee led. Yes, we absolutely need and want allies. But the people out front, the decision makers, need to be adoptees, just as in any other equality movement. All of you well know that this putting non-adoptees in the top spots of a so-called adoptee rights organization, having those people then make public statements disparaging adoptees, and promoting legislation that would allow others to veto access to an adoptee’s own birth records, would get you run out of town on a rail if you tried it in any other equality movement, whether Native American rights, Black Lives Matter, IA/KA movement, LGBT movement, etc.

    • I am really disgusted to hear about the birthmother lobbyist in MO going on about how this piece of crap legislation protects birthmothers. I am a birthmother and long-time adoption reform activist. I am also a SUPPORTING member of BN. That means I am following the lead of adoptee activists, not being “mommy” to them, nor promoting some agenda of my own. Gregory, thank you for your clear and direct dissection of the MO bill so those of us who have trouble with legalese can understand it. I can’t imagine why this would upset any honest person. Heather, what do you have to hide?

      This is sickeningly reminding me of what happened in NJ, my home state, although this is much worse because there was less deception, just a group who had been lobbying for 30 years giving up in weariness and accepting a compromised bill that in my opinion should have been pulled. The group here did pull bad bills before. I had testified in Trenton many times in support of clean bills, wrote, called and met with legislators, but when the local group gave into compromise I stopped supporting them. I have also not been at all pleased with their efforts to publicize the bill that takes effect next year by advertising the contact veto portion to birthmothers out there who may not know about it. Isn’t that the state’s job, now that the bill has been compromised and made so complicated?

      Any birthmother who is supporting contact vetoes or any bad sort of legislation about adoption should realize she gave up ALL rights when she signed a surrender, and just shut up if she cannot support full adoptee civil rights as a concerned citizen, not as mommy giving baby permission to peek at their OBC.

      • I need to stop trying to post comments from my phone.
        My comment above that “Basically we have redactions in Ani now that we’ll probably get rid of” should read “Basically we have redactions in NJ now that we’ll probably NEVER get rid of …”

        As Maryanne says about the NJ debacle, “just a group who had been lobbying for 30 years giving up in weariness and accepting a compromised bill that in my opinion should have been pulled”.

        They have no plan to go back for the left behinds. Same with Ohio. Same with WA. Same with MT.

        • While I usually do not like analogies of adoption and slavery, as they tend to be overblown and not helpful, I do see something analogous in the concept of natural mothers being in control of whether or not individual adoptees can get their own uncensored birth certificate.

          Logically, natural mothers (or for that matter adoptive parents) should have nothing to say about adult adoptee access to their OBC. Once the adoptee is an adult, it is none of any of the parents’ business, adoptive or biological. Giving natural mothers veto power and the right to deny an adoptee his OBC because they do not give permission essentially means the document belongs to the natural mother to give or withhold, not to the adoptee at all.

          It is as if slave holders had been given the choice of whether or not free their slaves, or to pick which slaves deserved to be freed, with the thought that most would do so out of the goodness of their hearts and to get some generous incentives, but for those few slaves whose owners would not free them, well, that was just bad luck they had to live with. Oh, but think how much sooner SOME slaves could have been freed if this compromise solution with some power left in the hands of the slave owners came first! It might even have postponed a messy civil war.

          Yes, I am being sarcastic. But this is how compromise legislation looks to me, and to many others, especially adopted adults who are in the unlucky “left behind” group. Either you are for full civil rights for adoptees and legislation that guarantees that, or you are not. As the saying goes if you are not part of the solution you are part of the problem.

  • Heather,
    A transparent, organized adoptee rights group would probably have the numbers to the other groups who have worked on pretty much identical legislation and make an attempt to have regular phone contact. Even – *gasp* – can I say it-? Oh what the hell!! Even an actual meeting with a little agenda! ? Remember in January when I suggested this? Relationships with allies are imperative. This is such a specific topic most of the country knows very little if anything at all about. We needed you to listen. You chose to tell allies to shut up and kick adoptees out of MARM who nicely asked ‘what’s the plan to keep these bad amendments out?’ I get that you want your adopted mom’s OBC. She deserves that 100%. But you can’t throw the rest of us under the bus. You are treating adoptees EXACTLY how the rest of the world treats us- ‘sit down, shut up and be thankful!’ It’s NOT okay. RESPECT.

  • It’s not like the Lord spake thusly to Pharaoh, “Let my people go, but it’s O.K to keep a few back.”

      • This is not directed at anyone in particular, but I often wince when we bring up the experiences of other civil or human rights efforts and apply (appropriate?) them to adoptee rights. To me it just doesn’t fit well and can be atrociously dismissive of experiences that involved mass murder, institutionalization, reproductive control, enslavement, and sterilization, to name only a few. Our experiences as adoptees are fairly broad and varied and often cross and involve racial and socio-economic issues, some of which we may actually be leaving out of our own discussions (that is, we have our own work to do within our own advocacy).

        For me, a close but imperfect analogy to another civil rights issue is same-sex marriage. When advocates on that issue sought marriage equality, they were either outright denied (sometimes violently) or, as a compromise, offered “civil unions.” That is, they were offered a crumb that approximated equality. A big difference in that comparison, at least to the issue over original birth certificates, is that civil unions could be revoked and marriage equality recognized or restored, either legislatively or through the courts. That option is off the table generally if legislation recognizes a “right” among birth parents to prohibit disclosure of basic information. Once that right is recognized, it’s likely been vested and will be extremely hard to undo legislatively. You are essentially left to the courts, and that has not been a successful avenue in the past. Not to say we shouldn’t revisit the courts, as we still seem stuck on caselaw from forty years ago, but it’s certainly an unpredictable strategic path.

        That’s the crux. If you feel it is necessary to compromise, what are the specific circumstances that force you into that position and what will you do, if anything, to continue fighting for anyone who doesn’t get access but instead gets something a lot less equal, if equal in any sense?