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The absolute minimum advocates need to understand are how the differences between state law and federal law applies to the OBC legislative initiative. Federal Law are laws which stem from the Constitution of the US or Laws that stem from Courts on the Federal Level such as the US Supreme Court, or laws created by the US Congress. State laws are similar, they have to abide by the US Constitution (14th Amendment) yet have their own unique Constitution in which the people of the State have to further abide by.The key is, that no State may create a law that supersedes the US Constitution or Federal Law. The State may refine a law, but not overrule it. Here’s an example, the US Supreme Court passed Roe v. Wade in 1973 making abortions legal, this means no state may pass a law making it illegal. However, a State may refine the law and apply provisions such as safety and health codes which the medical field has to abide by. Make sense?

In our legislative initiative, the Federal Government may say that every State must provide a birth certificate for every person born in the US. But the State may make a law that sets forth procedure on how to handle adoptions, hence sealed OBCs.

Because laws pertaining to sealed records were created on the State level, advocates have to engage the legislative initiative also on the State level.  I do feel there is a window of opportunity to exploit this initiative on the Federal Level, based upon separate merits then has ever been attempted in the past, which would have to start on a State level and move to the Federal level. But, that’s a  story for later.

At least one person in the legislative group needs to have a fundamental understanding of the laws at work in this initiative. In one of my next blogs I outline RI General Law which applies to adoption and the OBC Part 11.3.1: Privacy & Anonymity in the Law, I point out these are laws which were also within the context of the Bill the RI advocates were advocating on behalf of. The same laws are compelling evidence that birth parents weren’t guaranteed an absolute shield of privacy, let alone anonymity. Upon reading them, because the laws are so compelling in nature you’ll understand clearly the importance of knowing the law in your State while advocating. As obvious as it will be to research and find evidence of this nature, advocates who predicated me in RI never ever used these examples to support their case. Nor were the attorneys who practiced adoption law aware of these same laws.

Advocates need to know the 4th, 5th, 14th Amendments of the US Constitution:

The Fourth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution reads: The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.

  • “The right of the people to be secure in their…papers, and effects, against unreasonable…seizures..”

It can be said that an OBC, a State Government Document qualifies as a “Paper and/or effect.”

The Fifth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution reads: No person shall be held to answer for a capital, or otherwise infamous crime, unless on a presentment or indictment of a Grand Jury, except in cases arising in the land or naval forces, or in the Militia, when in actual service in time of War or public danger; nor shall any person be subject for the same offence to be twice put in jeopardy of life or limb; nor shall be compelled in any criminal case to be a witness against himself, nor be deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor shall private property be taken for public use, without just compensation.

  • nor be deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law..”

Due process of law is basically a court proceeding. So, “No person shall…be deprived of…property (OBC) without a court proceeding.

The next question is, when the adoptee’s OBC (property) was sealed (taken away by the government) what protections of State and Federal Law were provided to the child at the time of the OBC being sealed? Who was protecting the child’s interest? Or a more appropriate question, who was legally making decisions for the child? The birth parent who legally surrendered their parental rights? No. The parents who were adopting the child? No, they did not have legal custody at that time. The adoption agency who was profiting from the adoption? No, that’s a conflict of interest. This can be argued that this scenario is a violation of the child’s 4th, 5th, and 14th Amendments of the US Constitution.

Does my theory have a leg to stand on, I think so. The following Article from the Washington and Lee Law Review by Bridget A. Blinn supports the theory with “Focusing on Children: Providing Counsel to Children in Expedited Proceedings to Terminate Parental Rights”

The Fourteenth  Amendment to the U.S. Constitution reads: Section 1. All persons born or naturalized in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the State wherein they reside. No State shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States; nor shall any State deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.

  • One of the significant factors of the 14th Amendment is that it binds the Bill of Rights (first 10 Amendments) to the States. You will notice that every State’s first ten Amendments are the same or almost identical to the US Constitution.
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Part 1: Rising Up

Part 2: More Important than the Objective

Part 3: Organizing the Organization & Leadership

Part 4: Organization Objective

Part 5: Legislative Objective

Part 6: The “Rights”

Part 7: Understanding The Players

Part 8: Where Are the Adoptees??

Part 9: The Weight of the World and Adversity

Part 10: The Bill

Part 11: Lobbying – Hit’em Once, Hit’em Hard!

Part 11.1: Lobbying – Family Health History, the Controversy No More

Part11.2.1: Privacy – Mini Law Class

Part 11.2.2 Mini Law Class – The Basics

Part 11.3.1: Privacy & Anonymity in the Law

There’s no secret as to how committed and tenacious I worked with the legislative effort to allow adult adoptees to access our original birth certificates here in RI, and from what I understand its paying off in dividends around RI and the US as well. Of course my intention was always to help the thousands of adoptees in RI, self included, to discover our true identity and restore our rights to have the same opportunities as every other American citizen. And you better believe when the new law took effect on July 2, 2012, like many many other adoptees, I was front and center to acquire and feel my OBC between my fingers and examine my original information with my own eyes for the first time in my life.

On July 2nd I took my sealed envelop from the vital records office and went to Jamestown, RI climbed down to one of my favorite spots on earth with a bottle of champagne and a cigar with my OBC, knowing full well that the unopened envelop in my hand contained information that would change my life forever. I knew that the conclusion of what was about to take place with that information was going to in one form or another change my life as I presently knew it. More importantly, however, in using the information to contact biological family was secondary to only one other element, the truth. No matter the outcome of reaching out to my biological family, I would, in the end, have the truth, my personal truth, alas!

I wasted no time with my newly acquired information enlisting a couple of searchers, Zach and Laura who operated independently and were able to articulate waves of information and help me track my biological family. And track they did. (Thank you for your time and hard work, as always I appreciate it beyond words) Ultimately they have assisted me with bringing my efforts full circle which took place on Monday, August 13, 2012 when I reached out to a women who I suspected to be my natural (biological) mother, Kathy, who no longer goes by her maiden name. After a short initial inquiry we determined I had in fact successfully located and contacted the woman who brought me into this world quite some time ago, in October 1972.

The sweet and endearing voice on the other end of the line spoke softly and never seemed to waiver, I immediately sensed a familiar strength. Although the conversation began with the nervousness of attending a first dance in middle school it ended like speaking with a friend I’ve known for ever. Sure there were soulful truths to be told and were shared, yet we shared a good handful of laughs along the way too. What felt like 20 mins turned out to be a 2 hour conversation! Conversation just flowed, we allowed the conversation to carry where ever the wind carried it with very little guidance, although a couple imperative topics were acknowledged.  The chat felt good, validating and warm. The only balk in conversation were due to the shock in similarities we possess, like both of us working in a law firm, our fondness for spicy food, the gift for words, athleticism, and so on. The unexpected validation of certain characteristics were/are astonishing. We continued to communicate through email and had another chat or 2 via phone call, but a week later was when the news came of which there was no preparing…

I always imagined that I would have 1/2 siblings, as is the case for countless of adoptees. I discovered this is not quite the case for me in the capacity I had always imagined. This discovery was far more awesome, a week after reconnecting with Kathy she revealed I in fact have a 100% full-blooded sister, Angel. I have never been so blown away in my life, largely because not much surprises me. The downside of always quickly figuring things out is that I’m rarely surprised. The news of Angel didn’t surprise me, it knocked me out of socks. For the first time that I can recall news actually sat me down, from which I had the biggest smile on my face. I beamed a smile for about 2 days straight. Words, which is something I’m not often short on, apparently another characteristic which runs in the family, has escaped me to describe this experience.

This experience is surreal. And I have no trouble leaving it at that.

With the implementation of the new law in RI to allow adult adoptees access to their Original Birth Certificates (OBCs) there has been a discerning line emerging between two advocacy groups. Many people outside this State in the adoption community have too often expressed the sentiment, “Who cares, the job is done.” Or, “We aren’t concerned with the in-house fighting, it doesn’t matter.”

On the contrary, everything matters. How business is conducted does in fact, matter.

As long as groups and/or individuals have the above perspective there will always be gross discord with this national initiative. This national initiative is riddled with personal gain and individual agendas, of which is the nexus that is holding this collective initiative back.

Everything matters.

Respect for others: An element grossly lacking in the community.

Actions speak louder than words: I’ve noticed many people have opinions and healthy ideas, What have you done to implement those opinions and ideas to effect change?? 

Integrity. Integrity. Integrity. Without it, this initiative is lost. and right now, the collective initiative is LOST.

If YOU are not part of the solution, you are part of the problem.

Deciding not to decide is still a decision.

So is remaining neutral. Remaining neutral means you elect to not have a side. If your group does not have a side, you will be associated with the people who your group is connected to (such as funding). Above all, remaining neutral raises the question, what is your identity?

A part of the problem: The Bastard Nation, American Adoption Congress, and Yahoo Registry Search Group.

Advocacy is not subjective nor conditional. There is no exception to this RULE . If you do not unconditionally support adoptees you can NOT consider yourself a true advocate. At no time does anyone reserve the right to select which adoptees they wish to advocate on behalf of and which they do not. At no time does anyone reserve the right which principles they want to advocate on behalf of and which they do not. There is a term for the above, it is called discrimination. The above mentioned groups, either through principle or have directly disrciminated or supported a group who has discriminated against an adoptee or a group of adoptees.

Which ever the case, the moment any cause or initiative discriminates against one adoptee it is claiming to represent on behalf of, the entire mission is compromised. The sight of the goal is LOST, respect for the initiative is LOST, and you or your group’s integrity is LOST. And above all, the initiative is LOST.

Speaking of mission? It’s nice that individual national groups and organizations have missions, but why haven’t adoptees collectively created a mission that all adoptees can stand under, nationally?

Respectfully,

John J. Greene

 

Before Facebook lifted off the ground there were the Myspace days. In 2005, on Myspace, I stepped into the adoptee world for the first time to explore my past and future chapters with no anticipation of what may lurk around the corner.

Criticism and attitude didn’t really take long to introduce their self. It was common for one group of adoptees to give another adoptee shit if they weren’t angry enough, another group would give an adoptee shit if they didn’t say the right words or said the wrong words. There was also an entire Nation that would lash out on an adoptee simply for having an opposing view or had principles that weren’t completely in alignment with theirs. It was as if the more angry at adoption one was, the more right one was.  All of the above, I have directly experienced first hand.

Embarking on the legislative journey was no easier in 2008. More shit from the start. If legislation wasn’t proposed in an ideal manner I took shit from the Bastard Nation to the entire nation. Locally, the only thing that was worse than the legislative opposition was the deceit, hypocrisy, and backstabbing by advocates who had been a part of this initiative for 20 years, including the reps from a national organization for adoptee advocacy and also by so-called friends, all just to get their name in lights at the end of the day.

Speaking of the end of the day, 7 years later, I’m still here. I have evolved adoptee support chat boards to a LIVE chat support group. I have/am developing a local adoptee support group here in RI. And I have also been a part of an amazing team of adoptees who successfully advocated for adoptees to access there OBCs.

Be that as it may, as I sit here I realize this: the angry people are still angry, the bitter people are still bitter, the jaded people are still jaded, the critics are still criticizing, the people who feel it’s more important to be right then to win are still losing, water is still wet, gravity still keeps our feet on the ground, and I’m still one of many trying to move the ball down the field.

Aside from all the above, whatever it is that you do decide to “do” or “be” in life is certainly your decision. Whatever it is that you decide to “do” or “be” in life will also define you as a person and an individual. At the end our days, which I hope that’s a very long time from now, at some point, we all have to take stock in what we “did” and “became”, and that ladies and gentlemen will be your legacy. ~JG

Adoptees, need something to talk about?

You dont hear gay people walk up to each other and call each other faggot. You certainly dont hear handicap people walk up to each other and call each other retard. You know why? Because those terms are hurtful and it still has stigmas and the bigotry associated with it. And above all, neither group wants to continue to perpetuate those words and be attached to the pain, stigmas, or bigotry.

Please tell me why adoptees feel calling each other Bastards is acceptable and cool? For Empowerment? For Ownership? For shock value? Not so fast, Charlie Brown! You know why black folks OWN the word nigger/nigga? Because if a white person calls a black person the above mentioned word the white person will either get their head caved in, or shot. You know what happens when a Non-Adoptee calls an adoptee a Bastard?? N-O-T-H-I-N-G, NOTHING!. And sadly, due to the absence of violence, adoptees don’t own jack shit!

If you feel Bastard is an inappropriate term, stop using it, educate people, tell them it’s not appreciated nor cool! I am telling you right now, I’m not cool with adoptees calling each other Bastard, it’s ignorant, disrespectful and gross.

If people placed for adoption feel they need a term for empowerment and ownership, consider using ADAPTEES. Why? Children don’t Adopt, Parents Adopt, the child — Adapts. So technically we Adapted into a new family and therefore are ADAPTEES! You either adapted or didn’t adapt on your terms (consciously or unconsciously) . You Own it! (If you were rejected or not accepted by the adoptive family and couldn’t/wouldn’t adapt, do you still really want to be called an adoptee?)

Moral of the story: When you have the courage to be innovative and find effective solutions and express points such as this, combined with tenacity, NOTHING will stand in your way at overcoming legislative opposition. This is why RI advocates were successful at passing legislation, because the adaptees of RI-CARE were courageous and innovative. If you have a complaint with the current legislation here in RI..ie..the 25 year stipulation, I challenge you to do better in the face of invisible opposition under extreme adversity while a local group of advocates walks all over you.

~John J. Greene (ADAPTEE)

Dear New Jersey Legislative Advocates:

In light of Governor’s Christie’s recent position, if I may respectfully offer a parallel experience I believe could be very beneficial for the NJ effort.  The intent here is to offer insight into the complexities of the political and religious ties and how deep into the belly advocates may/have to go to strategize to effect successful change  at times.  I have also observed in some NJ articles  references to the RI effort.  To that extent I would ask for you to check out the full scope some RI advocates went to to effect change. Again, I feel NJ may have a tremendous opportunity here with Chritie’s public position. Read below to see why.

Parallel Background:

Like the NJ effort the RI effort had been in gear for over the course of 2 decades, not saying it was effective, but there was an ongoing effort over that time nonetheless.  Like NJ, RI has faced tremendous adversity with the game of politics and the Catholic Church.  Like NJ, RI’s opposition was always faceless, voiceless, while dancing elusively behind the scenes.  As long as the opposition had remained anonymous it was very easy for the politicians to continue to prolong the advancement of the Bill.

Change:

Here in RI it was the combination of a few elements, and one of which was a stroke of luck.  The luck aspect of it was that we had an adoptee who knew the Speaker of the House (#1 guy in our House of Reps) fairly well.  Enough so where we were able to get a fair shake for considering our Bill.  We naturally took advantage of this and met with the Speaker in 2009 as soon as he stepped into his new position.  Turns out, after hearing our sales pitch, the Speaker was completely on board, and you know the rest, the House passing our Bill 3 consecutive years unanimously.

Change, Local Background & Philosophy:

The other key element for change was the timely but needed break-up of TRACE, the original grassroots group who began this leg of the initiative in 2009.  By the time the split occurred it became clear 2 different groups had 2 different and vast approaches to root out the faceless opponents of the Senate publicly and do an about-face in order to change the law.  One new group that formed was AccessRI, who consisted of the AAC, various professionals in the field, and other self-proclaimed coalition of advocates.  Of that group of about maybe 10-15 ppl only one was a RI adoptee.  This group felt the best approach should be traditional and continue to placate the Senate and opposition in the traditional sense.  The other group was RI-CARE, consisted of about 10 ppl and 100% adoptees.  I maintain, the one party in this initiative that will always have a thirst beyond comprehension to accomplish this goal are the adoptees, period.  Collectively, by the time 2011 rolled around, during our short involvement in this initiative we (RI-CARE) had seen enough BS and we were not going to continue to placate another person or group for a moment longer.  Needlessly to say, we had enough of faceless opposition and placating, we were most definitely thirsty.

AccessRI felt generating support through a grassroots network reaching throughout the State was the best way to triumph over oppositional legislators.  They also felt utilizing the State newspaper to drum up support was also key.  RI-CARE agreed with the newspaper strategy, but only to a limited extent and for a different purpose.  Further, we did not agree with trying to cultivate an enormous grass roots effort, TRACE, at its peek, only cultivated 30 members after 2 years, of which were 6-8 core members, along with approx 10-15 consistent members, and the rest were grassroots.  Largely, RI-CARE felt this practice was too time consuming and a gross misallocation of time as a resource seeing that the opposition was limited to 10 legislators (off the record we knew precisely who they were anyway). The objective for us was that we had to get these silent legislators in opposition to come out publicly, as Gov Christie recently has.

Strategy:

RI-CARE began the legislative effort for 2011 almost immediately after the 2010 summer and finally found a strategy that turned out to be very effective for us.  There were only a small number of us and we didnt have a lot of time on our hands, so we had to be innovative and effective.  We pressed the story with the media, we lobbied professionally with integrity hitting facebook pages of specific Senators and the official RI Senate FB pages.  From the start the Bill was a controversial issue so it didnt take much for a newspaper reporter to want to follow the story.  From there, every time an article was published in the paper we went to the newspaper website and posted like crazy.  Again, we remained professional in order to be effective.

The Battlefield:

As the legislative agenda for the Bill heated up in 2011, so did RI-CARE.  Every time there was a hearing there was an article in the paper.  Every time there was an article there was an entire team of supporters applying pressure through the newspaper website.  Randomly one day, a RI-CARE advocate received a call from AccessRI conveying a message directly from the President of the Senate as a result of a meeting AccessRI had with the President urging the individuals pressing publicly in the media to back off.  We thanked AccessRI for the message, and stayed our course, we now knew we were getting to the opposition. In fact, we ramped up the pressure.

Please allow me to squash any doubts that may exist about how close politics and the church are related here.  The President of the Senate, turns out attended Catholic schools her entire life, including college and law school.  It also turns out that when she became an attorney her field of practice was Family Law and focused on facilitating adoptions.  It further turns out that one of RI’s oldest and largest adoption agencies was located only about 10 minutes from the President’s practice. It was also an interesting fact that after doing a Corporation search on the RI Secretary of State’s website that that same adoption agency was/is located inside a church. The church was actually the umbrella corporation the adoption agency was operating under.  In the event you don’t know, when filing a business entity the business must list a board of directors, (President, VP,..etc.) I explain that to tell you this, the president of that church as a business entity, as a corporation, with the adoption agency,  was and is the Bishop of RI.  After this information was shared with the reporter covering our story an even more interesting event occurred in the RI legislation about 10 days later, the Bill for the first time in Senate history was voted on in committee.  Not only was it voted on, the Bill with all kinds of restrictions was dropped almost back to the unrestricted access Bill, with exception to the age stipulation, then passed unanimously.  Following that vote, the Bill moved to the floor a few days later for consideration and everything is history from there.

Civil Rights and Human Rights were the foundation we built our advocacy upon, but it wasn’t our staple. We led the charge with family health history.  Specifically, we advocated that “every citizen should have the same opportunities as every other citizen.”  We countered arguments of privacy and Hippa Laws that the adoptee community wasn’t looking to access anyone’s medical files or adoption records, (which was true) we only asked to have the same opportunities as every other citizen, which the OBC offers..just an opportunity.

I feel NJ now has the public enemy that’s needed to apply the pressure.  Your legislative opposition now has a clear face and voice, now you have a target you can strategize against and dismantle.  I would recommend to be innovative and take the gloves off and go at him and with everything you can.  Send messages via Youtube, the media, newspapers, and tell the State of NJ he doesn’t care about the health and welfare of all NJ citizens, including children.  The church is prolife, they can’t be prolife and turn around and say that children shouldn’t or don’t deserve family health history.  The state can not have a law that says incestuous relationships are illegal while preserving secrecy to this extent. They already set the stage to make themselves look really bad, all you advocates have to do is open the curtain. I’ll be glad to share other strategic tactics with my fellow advocates, should you so decide.

Very truly yours,

John J. Greene