CHICAGO – Governor Pat Quinn today signed legislation that will help adoptees and their birth family members learn more about their family history. Today’s action follows the historic Illinois Birth Certificate Access Law, signed by the Governor in 2010 and recognized as the most expansive adoptee rights legislation enacted in the nation. Today’s ceremony is part of Governor Quinn’s commitment to protecting and improving the health of the people of Illinois.
“People have a right to know the first chapter of their lives and should have what they need to fill in the branches on their family tree,” Governor Quinn said. “This information can also be vital when determining inherited traits and medical history. This new law will help Illinois’ adoptees gain access to what is rightfully theirs.”
House Bill 5949, sponsored by State Representative Sara Feigenholtz (D-Chicago) and State Senator Iris Martinez (D-Chicago), will help people gain information about their biological family history including obtaining original birth records when one of their grandparents was adopted as a child. In 2010, Governor Quinn signed a bill to provide adopted adults greater access to copies of their original birth certificates without having to get a court order. The law has helped adopted adults learn more about their birth families, including medical histories. According to the Illinois Department of Public Health, more than 10,000 adoptees have gained access to these documents since the bill became law.
“Nearly 17,000 children have been adopted in Illinois in the last 10 years alone,” Department of Children and Family Services Acting Director Bobbie Gregg said. “We applaud Governor Quinn and the General Assembly for continuing to expand the rights of these adoptees and their families.”
“Governor Pat Quinn has recognized the importance of this very basic human right and has led the nation on restoring access to original birth certificates for adoptees,” Representative Feigenholtz, an Illinois born adoptee, said. “Governor Quinn has fulfilled the dreams of 10,500 adopted adults who have spent a lifetime trying to fill in the missing pieces of their lives. He will forever be remembered for his unflinching leadership on pushing these measures.”
“This legislation permits biological parents and adoptees the access they need to either learn about family health history or connect with each other if so desired,” Senator Martinez said. “Streamlining the process so information is obtained in a timely, efficient manner when needed through the courts is important.”
State Representative Ann Williams (D-Chicago) is also an adopted adult. However, her birth certificate remains under lock and key in the state of Pennsylvania.
“It is a bittersweet day for me as I anxiously await the opportunity to get a glimpse of my original birth certificate,” Representative Williams said. “Pennsylvania and the rest of the nation should follow the Illinois model and provide adopted adults with this simple piece of paper."
The new law is effective Jan. 1, 2015.