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South Dakota adoptees made to wait another year, both bills die

(The following is simply my own personal summary, nothing more.)

Once again, South Dakota started its legislative session this year with clean bills in the House and Senate, each poised to restore the rights of South Dakota’s adult adoptees to their original birth certificates.

After last year’s premature victory celebration by certain out of state adoptees, last year’s bill sadly came up just short of passing.

This year also ended in a failure to pass adoptee rights legislation.

Despite the best efforts of South Dakota SEAL (Support and Education for Adoption Legislation,) and its allies Senate Bill 152 failed its floor vote 22 to 12 (with one member excused). Senator Adelstein announced his intention to reconsider the vote, but in the end it did not go up for reconsideration.

On the House side, HB 1223 started as a clean bill but as it passed through the Health and Human Services Committee two amendments were added including one moved by Representative Moser which subverted the intent of the bill and ensured some number of adopted people would be left behind had it passed.

The key sentence in the amendment was this:

“If a parent has indicated a no contact preference no original birth certificate may be obtained.”

This was (mis) described as a contact “preference” when the actual effect of the legislation would have been that of a disclosure  VETO.

This ‘preference definition creep’  is precisely what I have been warning about for some time now.

As Marley Greiner wrote in her letter the Representatives:

The bill was amended with a birthparent disclosure veto (under a false title of “birthparent contact preference,”) that creates a special right for birthparents to ban access–a special right that no other parent or adult has over the birth certificate of another person. This ban guts the purpose of the bill and creates more bureaucracy and government control over the lives of individuals and families in South Dakota.

Sadly the amendment was added in committee by a vote of 7 to 5 (with one member excused.)

Last Friday the House bill with the amendment on it came up for the full floor vote but fortunately failed to reach the 2/3 majority that was required due to the fee to the special fund.

The vote was 42 Ayes to 21 Nays with 7 Representatives excused.

In the end, Representative Moser voted against the amended version (a “Nay” vote) of the bill, apparently in opposition to ANY access for ANY number of adoptees.

While three of the bill’s cosponsors were excused, of the 17 remaining cosponsors of the original version, all but one voted “Yea” in favor of the amended version of the bill that would ultimately leave some number of adopted people behind.

As was noted in the Bastard Nation action alert linked above, there appears to have been some confusion:

It’s been very confusing. The bill’s sponsored who claimed to want a clean bill, voted YAY for the corrupted amended version and the sponsor of the corrupted version voted NAY against his own amendment!

At no time on the floor was there ever a vote to remove the odious amendment.

After the vote, the Lead Sponsor, Representative Bolin announced his intention to reconsider the vote. the reconsideration was originally scheduled for Monday (yesterday) but by early afternoon had been dropped.

While it was good to see the corrupted version of the bill go down to defeat, it was also heartbreaking, knowing that South Dakota adoptees had failed to regain their equality and would be forced to wait another year to try again.

It should be noted that SD SEAL stood strong and refused to accept a corrupted “compromised” bill. To their absolute credit, they held out for a clean bill. They understand the simple truth that lies behind “no one gets left behind or forgotten.”

That insistence upon a clean bill also led to Bastard Nation and other out of state allies (including myself)  to support  SD SEAL’s efforts. (SD SEAL had stated it welcomed out of state supporters.)

In a climate wherein so often we are forced into a defensive stance trying to hold off bad bills, for at least a brief moment, SD’s original bills this year were a proactive bright spot, (before the House bill was subverted.)

Hopefully, over the next year South Dakota adoptees and allies will continue the educational process and prepare for the introduction of another clean bill next year.

In the mean time, I urge those who contacted legislators to follow up with them and offer thanks to those who voted to support restored adoptee rights.

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