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New York legislature passes adoptee OBC bill

As the hours and even minutes ticked down to the adjournment of the New York legislature’s 2019 session, adoptees and genealogists held their breath.

Would it happen, in a state not known for its generosity of vital records?

Would New York actually vote to become the 10th state to allow adoptees and their descendants to obtain unredacted copies of their original birth certificates without jumping through hoops?

For a while, it seemed that the measure — A5494/S3419 — would sail through.1 It passed the New York State Senate by a margin of 56-6 on June 3,2 and the Assembly version had so many co-sponsors that it was guaranteed to pass in that lower house … if it came up for a vote.

And for a while there it sure didn’t look like it was going to come up for a vote.

The time frame for the Assembly was tight. The last day of the 2019 session was scheduled to be June 19, and the bill was stuck in committee.

By the time the vote list came out for the final extended day of the 2019 session — the Assembly continued into yesterday, June 20, and even into this morning — the original birth certificate bill wasn’t even on the list.

But something magical happened. Phone calls, emails, even personal contacts from adoptees and family historians turned the tide. The bill was pushed out to the Rules Committee and then to the floor where members of the Assembly who were themselves adoptees urged their colleagues not to delay the vote.

NY OBC law

And yesterday afternoon, by a vote of 126-2, the Assembly gave its approval to a bill that declares that “the denial of access to accurate and complete medical and self-identifying data of any adopted person, known and wilfully withheld by others, may result in such person succumbing to preventable disease, premature death or otherwise unhealthy life, is a violation of that person’s human rights and is contrary to the tenets of government.”3

It provides, as of 15 January 2020, that any official holding birth records in New York “shall issue certified copies of original long form line by line, vault copy birth certificates… to (i) an adopted person, if eighteen years of age or more, or (ii) if the adopted person is deceased, the adopted person’s direct line descendants, or (iii) the lawful representatives of such adopted person, or lawful representatives of such deceased adopted person’s direct line descendants, as the case may be.”4

Governor Andrew Cuomo has already said he’ll sign the bill… and New York will join Alabama, Alaska, Colorado, Hawaii, Kansas, Maine, New Hampshire, Oregon and Rhode Island in allowing adoptees unrestricted access to their original birth certificates once they reach the age of 18.5

Congratulations to New York adoptees and their families!

Cite/link to this post: Judy G. Russell, “Welcome, Number 10!,” The Legal Genealogist ( : posted 21 June 2019).


  1. See New York Assembly Bill A5494; New York Senate Bill S3419.
  2. Ibid.
  3. Ibid., §1.
  4. Ibid., §2.
  5. See Gregory Luce, “The United States of OBC,” Adoptee Rights Law ( : accessed 21 June 2019).
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