Friday, July 31, 2009


On July 21, 2009 people from as far as England gathered in Philadelphia, PA to protest legally sealed birth certificates in the United States.

Adoptees, mothers, fathers and adoptive parents marched down Market St. in Philly to the Pennsylvania Convention Center, where the National Convention for State Legislatures was being held. Two police cars stopped traffic at each intersection to allow marchers to freely cross the street. Protesters yelled, “You’ve got yours – we want ours!”

While protesters spoke with legislators and other NCSL participants outside the building, others were inside the centre working at The Adoptee Rights Coalition booth. Lawmakers and stakeholders were educated for three days straight by experts, such as Joyce Bahr, president of New York’s Unsealed Initiative and Paula Benoit, former Maine senator and president of Adoptee C.A.R.E. , on successful legislation and current laws pertaining to legally sealed birth certificates. Visitors to the booth, I found, were extremely receptive to learning more about the issue of sealed birth certificates in their state. Some, not surprisingly, did not know adopted persons could not obtain their own birth certificate.

Birth certificates, based on the research I have done, were sealed (what’s on paper, not was is propagated) so the person adopted could not possess two official documents showing two identities. So why hide the names’ of the parents? A simple stamp on a birth registration stating, “Not for official use” would have been sufficient.

While digging through Ontario’s child welfare and adoption legislative archives (1890s-1950), I was not able to locate one document or stumble upon one sentence in any legislative material that stipulated or even suggested that mothers who had lost their daughters and sons to the system of adoption, were assured privacy/anonymity from those children sent away to be raised by people other their own families. The only reference I found to mothers was the recommendation that these women, post an unwed pregnancy, receive adequate counselling to help them integrate back into society and be deemed worthy of a respectable man’s admiration. Governments should be ashamed of the way they treated these women.

What legislators need to know is that sealing birth certificates with the idea that there was government-authorized privacy among family members, is a tall tale fabricated by proponents of legalized secrecy. How can anybody justify sealed birth certificates based on a law that does not exist?

A protest for adoptee rights is about offering people affected by adoption policy and laws, a platform to articulate to the lawmakers and the public how these laws are fictitious, discriminatory, and why they need to change. An adoptee rights protest, like any other protest proclaiming social injustice, attracts people with diverse experiences, and some express those experiences differently. But, to be sure, all participated in the Adoptee Rights Protest for the same reason: to reclaim what was unjustly taken from them- without compromise.

It was incredibly powerful meeting adopted people at the Philly protest who were, for the first time, speaking publicly about sealed birth certificates and fighting for their rights. How brave, how inspiring—how ‘right’ it felt. Bravo to my sisters and brothers for a job well done!

There were also two other events in Philly that cannot go unsaid –
Our dear friend Heather and her Mother, Carol reunited in person on July 20, 2009. About ten of us piled into two vehicles and headed to the Philly airport to wait with Heather, while she waited for Mom to arrive from Florida. Talk about a nail biting experience!

Heather held up a sign that said “Hi Mom” and we waited. We waited some more. We shifted left to right of the pathway leading out from arrivals. Then we shifted back to the left. Then, with what seemed like not a moment to blink, Heather’s sign dropped to the ground, her eyes were fixed on her Mother’s face – she and her Mother locked arms and held each other tight. It had only been 38 years since mother and daughter had been legally separated.

The other event was the road trip to Helium Comedy Club where we heard our Linda Gambino deliver her comedy routine. Linda is not just funny; she is sharp, gorgeous and can deliver the jokes without missing a beat. Let’s just say that she is a masterpiece. When Linda shows up at a comedy club in your city—get there fast.

Lastly, a gigantic thank you to all the participants and supporters of this Philly event. Of course another thank you goes to my comrades in The Adoptee Rights Coalition who pulled the demonstration and convention centre booth together.

We’re keepin’ it real.

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joy said...

Awesome post.

You deserve a lot of credit. Your leadership skills are most excellent, thank you for all you have done.

I mean that from the bottom of my heart. Your voice has given me permission to have mine.

Michelle said...

Thanks, Joy :)

Ungrateful Little Bastard said...

"Governments should be ashamed of the way they treated these women."


Thank you for everything.