A bipartisan bill to allow adults who were adopted to obtain their birth certificates has advanced the full Senate. Birth certificates for residents who were adopted have been sealed in New Jersey for more than 70 years. The records were sealed to protect the adoptee and the adoptive family from interference by the biological parents.

The measure is sponsored by Republican Sen. Diane Allen and Democratic Senators Joe Vitale and Majority Leader Loretta Weinberg.

“It’s now clear that these closed records condemn adoptees to an inferior standing in our state,” said Allen, who has worked to change the state’s law for 17 years. “Their civil rights are being violated by not allowing them to know basic information about their beginnings, their medical background, who their parents are or any siblings they may have – information the rest of us are allowed and take for granted.”

Under the bill, those 18 years old or over who were adopted to obtain their original birth certificate. The adopted person would also be able to receive all available information concerning their family history and their birth parents’ contact preferences.

Birth parents could file paperwork as to whether in the future they prefer to be contacted directly by the child, through an intermediary or not at all.

“Knowing who you are and where you came from is a right that all people deserve, but without access to original birth certificates, many adoptees are left in the dark regarding their family medical, cultural and social history,” said Vitale. “Without this information, adoptees are often put at a disadvantage when it comes to making informed health decisions. Providing these men and women with access to this vital information by no means compromises the privacy of the birth parent, but instead provides adoptees with valuable insight into their family history.”

The bill would require that when a birth parent submits a document of contact preference to the state registrar that they also submit family history information.

A birth parent whose preferences is to have no contact with the adoptive person would be encouraged to update their family history once every ten years until they reach the age of 40, and once every five years thereafter. The state registrar would be required, under the bill, to supply adopted persons with any updated information as it is added to the file.

“Under New Jersey’s current system, adoptees are left to fend for themselves to hunt down basic family information, all while the state has access to what these men and women are looking for,” said Weinberg. “New Jersey should no longer be party to a system that denies individuals access to their families’ medical history, their place of birth or their birth parents’ preference for reconnecting. This legislation balances the desire for a birth parent to remain anonymous with the adoptees need for vital health records.”