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A restored right, it’s the Maine thing



Jack Milton/Staff Photographer


Elizabeth Norcross Miller, of Newburgh, exults as she gets her birth certificate today at the Maine Office of Data, Research and Vital Statistics in Augusta. Under a new Maine law, adult adoptees can obtain a copy of their original birth certificate for the first time since 1953.


Sometimes people wonder why Bastard activists do the work we do.

Maine, having restored records access to adult adoptees and thereby finally restored a basic right to its adoptees, well what is unfolding there right now is part of the answer to that question.

Open records makes such a concrete difference in the lives of those so fortunate as to have that right restored to them. Restored access is about human rights, about dignity, and about working towards treating adopted people equitably.

Many of the quotes in articles focus upon reunion or medical histories, but that is not what open records are at their core. Opening records merely makes the State stop impounding the records for adoptees that non-adopted people already have access to.

Any potential reunions or gained access to medical information come as a secondary step thereafter.

When the State stops treating adopted people differently (as a class of people,) we simply regain what other people already have, our unimpeded Constitutionally protected right to free association. We can then ask whether our relatives want a relationship with us, or whether or not they would care to share our familial medical history with us, but they are under no obligation to do either.

Open records are about the restoration of adoptees’ rights (human and civil).

Reunion is about any relationships and information shared that may come thereafter.

The two get conflated in articles or in sound-bytes, but they are inherently sequential.

(Yes state mandated reunion registries etc. attempt to bypass or short circuit that sequence. They attempt to give relationship without restored rights, that is why they, like any other state offered breadcrumbs should ultimately be rejected by anyone serious about Bastard equality. Privately set up reunion registries etc. have been a stop gap measure, based upon our right to freedom of association and sometimes desperate need for information, medical or otherwise, but they form an interpersonal relationship based band-aid, not a restoration of Bastard human rights.)

That said, the sequential decisions can play out very quickly. Once records access has been restored, yes, some people jump right into attempting to find their relations, after all, in some cases they’ve waited their whole lives for such. Every day that passes is another day that relatives may die. No one wants to miss such a long awaited opportunity by days or hours.

Let’s spell it out though, what does the records access restoration (such as Maine’s, that still does not treat adopteed people with full equity and uses records access as an occasion to set up yet a new state bureaucracy in the form of a currently non-binding “contact preference form”) really mean to adult adoptees who opt to utilize it?

After in many cases a lifetime’s worth of waiting, Maine adult adoptees:

  • are finally able to access their own original birth certificates, paperwork pertaining to themselves that the state began essentially impounding and locking away from Maine adoptees 56 years ago
  • they are finally are able to determine that their birthdate is their birthdate, or what their actual birthdate might be. This will be the first time in some adoptees’ lives that they’ve ever been able to verify how old they really are
  • they are finally able to determine where they were born
  • in some cases they are finally able to determine whether or not they had other siblings at the time of their birth
  • they are finally able to gain access to the documentation of any name they might have been given at birth
  • they now have the option, should they wish to, to attempt to reconnect with family members. For some adopted people simply gaining their authentic paperwork may be an end unto itself, but for others, they have spent their lives fighting the clock, hoping to gain access to their information and perhaps find relatives before they are lost to them forever. Restoration of access means the State has after decades, finally gotten out of the way when it comes to exercising our constitutionally protected right to freedom of association.
  • and most importantly, they are closer to being treated just like any other person born in Maine than they have been at any point in the last 56 years.

Truth is better than lies.

For those who have been forced to live behind walls of lies for perhaps their entire lives, the moment when our truths are finally revealed to us is overwhelming.

There are no words for that moment. Having not experienced it myself, I won’t even attempt to characterize it. It is perhaps best summed up by the tears of people who have spent decades or lifetimes worth of being bastardized by the State finally regaining, or gaining for the first time, just a small portion of their basic human dignity.

I do this work because no one should be denied the most basic information about their own lives, kept in file cabinets and vaults by the State, locked away from the people it most intimately pertains to.

States’ sealed records systems go beyond mere personal degradation to unequal treatment under law. The restoration of access to our own paperwork is a restoration to a basic right other people born in any given locale have the luxury of taking for granted.

What has finally been won in Maine brings adoptees closer to being treated just like anyone else born there.

Maine is now one of six states that either never sealed their records or have restored access since 2000.

For Maine news and updates, first go see “Original Birth Certificates for Maine”, or OBC for ME they folks behind the law. They have plenty of information, including the link to the official state application form and the details of what will also be required when submitting a records request.

Next, go read some of the news links off Marley’s post, MAINE UPDATE: A COLLECTION OF RECENT NEWS STORIES ON THE RESTORATION OF ADOPTEE RIGHTS IN MAINE and her analysis of the lousy editorial built upon false frames in the Portland Press Herald back on December 30th MAINE: RECORDS OPENED, GRINCH CRINGES!

Then go read Lorraine’s post on her “Fristmother Forum,” Now for more good news from Maine.

Already, for some of those from Maine who have long sought them, there have been family reunions since regaining their original birth certificates this past week.

I’ll leave readers with several bits from this article, Maine adoptees get access to birth records, (January 2)

About 20 men and women, each raised by parents who adopted them, lined up outside a state office building this morning to get a first look at their original birth certificates.

Some choked back tears as they learned the names of their birth mothers, the places where they were born and, in some cases, the fact that they have siblings they’ve never met


The first wave of people waited in the cold outside the Maine Office of Data, Research and Vital Statistics until it opened at 8 a.m. The group included men and women from as far as Florida and California.

and from this (not so great, reunion focused) article, Maine adoptees allowed access to birth records, from today (January 6)

About 50 ended up picking up theirs on Friday, Beavers said, adding the scene of the adoptees and supporters lined up before the office opened Friday morning was a “mob.”

“It was unbelievable,” she said.

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