Key Facts: Michigan’s Discrmination Against Adult Adoptees and Refusals to Release Records That Are No Longer ‘Secret’
By Rudy Owens, Last Updated July 22, 2016
Editor’s Note: I have updated this document to reflect that I have received my original birth certificate as of July 18, 2016, ending the charade that my original birth certficate is a secret and that I am a person who can be treated as a second-class person under the law. I never acknowledged the state’s authority for three decades to hold my records or treat me as as anything else but a U.S. citizen and Michigan native with full rights under the U.S. Constitution and state law. The state ultimately conceded because of the intervention of the court system, despite repeated efforts to promote its regressive and conservative agenda for retaining and promoting closed records for adult adoptees.
- The State of Michigan/Michigan Department of Health and Human Services (MDHHS), my adoption agency (Lutheran Child and Family Services), and the Wayne County Probate Court did everything in their power to keep me from knowing my birth family, critical family medical history, and identity before I found my birth family in 1989.
- Today, nearly three decades later, the state and MDHHS tried to keep my original identity document from me, even when there was no longer any rational reason to keep a non-secret birth record from the person who knows his original birth name.
- Michigan since the 1980s and through the present has used a legal smokescreen to mask arbitrary and paternalistic decisions that provide no public benefit—not to adoptive families, not to birth parents, and especially not to adoptees.
- Michigan for decades has practiced state-sanctioned discrimination against thousands of adoptees by denying them equal rights of all other residents regarding critical medical and family history—a practice that undermines public health and contradicts recommendations by nearly every major medical body for all persons to know their family medical history.
- In spite of the state’s efforts to hide my identity, I found my biological families in the 1980s.
- My birth mother in April 1989 signed a legal consent requiring my adoption agency, the Wayne County Probate Court, and the state to release identifying information. The consent was received by the Michigan Department of Public Health, Office of Vital and Health Statistics. It has the force of law and must be honored.
- Though I was given my adoption decree, birth medical history, and all other identifying information, the state refused to surrender my birth certificate, claiming it was a “sealed” record and could not release it.
- I have known both sides of my birth family now for decades—wiping away any rationale that state secrecy was needed to keep hiding my original birth certificate.
- In October 2015, state adoption personnel refused to discuss the accessing of my original birth certificate and told me to fill out a damn form. No apology for the state’s offensive behavior was ever provided to this day. No attempt at accommodation was offered. The “analyst” in the Central Adoption Registry presented emotionally unstable, erratic, and discriminatory behavior. The analyst running this small office also has likely exceeded her authority to seal all adoption records statewide.
- Because of the state’s failures to talk with me, I made a direct request to MDHHS director Nick Lyon on March 21, 2016 for my original birth certificate, and copied the media and Gov. Snyder’s office a day earlier—to compel a decision.
- There was no compelling legal rationale to continue hiding my birth record, when all of the facts of my identify were public and have been for nearly three decades concerning my original birth name.
- MDHHS denied my request before my documents even reached Director Lyon on March 28, 2016, claiming “the law is the law.” No effort was made to review all of the original evidence or use common sense that holding a record that is already publicly knowledge defied common sense and good judgment.
- State officials called my request and me “the problem,” “tagged” me in their system, and claimed I had “an agenda.” At least 19 senior officials in the MDHHS and Gov. Snyder’s office were involved in denying my reasonable request and were copied in the state’s denial of my request. Read a forensic analysis of these officails’ emails as they struggled to deny me my birth record, without any practical legal or rational reason to keep it from me.
- MDHHS never once sought to consider alternatives they always had, including wide discretion in interpreting laws and rules—a central tenet in U.S. law and in all state and federal judicial reviews of agency actions. MDHHS officials determined from the start to deny me my record, and then found a legal justification without reviewing all of the evidence in an impartial manner.
- Getting my original birth certificate ultimately required a court order, signed on June 17, 2016, by Judge Christopher Dingell of the 3rd Circuit Court of Michigan. The Hon. Judge Dingell agreed with facts of the case: I know my birth name, I had nearly three decades of contact with my birth families, the required legal consent to release identifying information was signed by my birth mother in 1989. This was completely avoidable had the state chosen to demonstrate compassion and leadership, and treat me with dignity and equality.
- On July 18, 2016, I finally receive my original birth certificate from the MDHHS. On the copy of my record of birth, state vital records officials wrote in big capital letters, and three times “SEALED” as a final communication to me and anyone else who may see my record that I was not a legitimately born person, deserving of equal rights, such as having access to one’s vital records.
Back to Battling Michigan for my Birth Certificate page.