Gov. Cuomo signs bill ending secrecy of birth records for NY adoptees
Gov. Andrew Cuomo signed a historic measure into law that grants New York adoptees access to vital birth records.
The law ends 84 years of secrecy surrounding adoptions in New York state. For the first time since 1935, when the state sealed adoption records, adoptees will be able to obtain their original birth certificate when they turn 18 and find out the names of their birth parents.
Patrick Deegan, of Huntington, was adopted shortly after he was born 46 years ago. He says when he was 18, he tried to get his birth certificate but was denied under the old law. He says he spent more than 20 years fighting for the right to know where he came from.
“Knowing that I was not allowed access to my own records really felt as though it was a form of discrimination,” says Deegan.
Under the 1935 adoption law, Deegan and thousands of other adoptees were barred from obtaining their original birth certificates because the state sealed birth records to protect the privacy of parents who gave up their children for adoption.
Supporters of the new bill argued the old law was discriminatory. Gov. Cuomo agreed, saying, "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."
Deegan says the new law will enable him to fill in many blanks about what his history is. “It means equality. In a word, just pure equality. It means having access to records that pertain to me, nobody else. Medical data, nationality,” he says.
Deegan adds that his own documents are important for his son too. “I have a son so, now my son gets to find out what his nationalities were prior to his father just being born in America,” he says.
The law will go into effect on Jan. 15. New York will become the 10th state to provide the birth certificates with unrestricted access.