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June 2000Vol. 1, No. 4Way Cleared in Oregon for Access to Adoption Records

The U.S. Supreme Court refused May 30 to block an Oregon law allowing adult adoptees age 21 and older to obtain their original birth certificates. The High Court's decision allowed the law to take effect on May 31.

Implementation of the Oregon law has been on hold while a legal challenge wound its way through the courts. A group of birth mothers argued that the law infringed on assurances of anonymity they had been given when they relinquished children for adoption.

An Oregon appeals court in December found the law constitutional, and the State Supreme Court upheld that ruling in March. On May 16, the State Supreme Court voted 5-2 not to reconsider its March decision.

Only 5 other States--Tennessee, Alaska, Delaware, Kansas, and Alabama--give adult adoptees access to their original birth records.

Oregon was the first, and is still the only, State in which citizens rather than legislators voted to open adoption records to adoptees. Oregon voters approved Measure 58 by referendum in 1998.

The women who challenged the law filed an emergency request with the U.S. Supreme Court to stay the law after the Oregon Court of Appeals refused to do so. The High Court rejected the request.

Last July, Governor John Kitzhaber signed into law an amendment to Measure 58 intended to protect individuals' privacy by allowing for a voluntary "Contact Preference Form" to be attached to the original birth certificate. Both supporters and opponents of Measure 58 supported the amendment.

As of May 30, more than 2,200 adoptees in Oregon had paid a fee and filed an application to obtain their records.

The U.S. Supreme Court has already refused to review a similar law in Tennessee.

Related Item

Alabama Governor Don Siegleman on May 25 signed HB 690, which gives adult adoptees in Alabama the right to gain access to their birth records. The law was passed by the Alabama legislature with little opposition.