Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt's recent wedding was private and low-key as are their human rights efforts. It also reflected their child- and family-centered priorities.
Adoptive parents like Brad and Angie are adamant that they love their adopted children the same as they would, or do, love the children born to them. They love them and treat them equally and want the best for all their children. But most states' laws do not treat adopted and non-adopted people equally.
Three of Brad and Angie's children, Shiloh, Knox and Vivienne, know where they inherited their hair and eye color and other traits. They also have access to their medical history and can take whatever life-saving precautionary measures they choose, as Angelina did, knowing her mother's fate and that she inherited the BCRA gene.
Maddox, Zahara, and Pax were adopted internationally, however. Their birth records are in their homelands. Had they been adopted from within the United States, like Sandra Bullock's little boy, access to his original birth certificate would be denied to him in most states. Domestic adoptees are denied the names of their first parents and thus their updated family medical history.
Adoption records were sealed state by state starting in the 1940s during a time when single pregnancy and infertility were shrouded in shame and secrecy. Adoptive parents were advised not to tell their children, lest they feel less a part of the family, and to reduce the stigma of "illegitimacy." Amended birth certificates protected the secret by listing adopters as parents of birth. In most states, adoptees' original birth certificates were sealed in two steps. First they were sealed to the public, and later to the adoptee him or herself. Grassroots activists are working state by state to reverse these laws.
The time is long overdue to undue this travesty.
In a 2007 report for the Evan B. Donaldson Adoption Institute, Madelyn Freundlich, author and Policy Director for Children's Rights, Inc. wrote that "prohibiting adopted people from getting their personal information raises significant civil rights concerns and potentially serious, negative consequences for their physical and mental health."
Adoption is supposed to provide a "better" life, yet adoptees in most states continue to be denied access to their vital records.
Only half a dozen states currently allow adult adopted citizens unrestricted access to their own birth certificates. Another dozen or so allow access with restrictions that apply only to adopted persons, in violation of the 14th amendment granting all American citizens "full and equal benefit of all laws." As a result of being denied access to their authentic certificate of birth, American-born adopted persons are experiencing difficulties obtaining passports because their amended birth certificates are often dated a year or more after their birth.
Brad and Angelina are uniquely poised to combine their two passions - adoption and human rights - and help reverse antiquated, restrictive adoption laws that unjustly discriminate against adopted persons.
The Pitt-Jolies -- and other celebrity adoptive parents such as Kirstie Alley, Sandra Bullock, Sheryl Crow, Jamie Lee Curtis, Edie Falco, Mia Farrow, Calista Flockhart, Mariska Hargitay, Katherine Heigl, Diane Keaton, Nicole Kidman, Madonna, Jillian Michaels, Marie Osmond, Mary-Louise Parker, Michelle Pfeifer, Meg Ryan, Carroll O'Connor, Rosie O'Donnell, Denise Richards Sharon Stone, and Charlize Theron -- owe it to their children and all adoptees to stand up and champion this injustice.
Celebrity adopters and well-known adoptees such as Jaimie Foxx, Melissa Gilbert, Debbie Harry, Faith Hill, Tim McGraw, Sarah McLachlan, Jack Nicholson, and Nicole Richie, and celebrity birthmothers Joni Mitchell and Roseanne Barr, have the clout to bring attention to this silent discrimination.
Marriage equality brought forth many celebrity spokespersons who have helped bring attention to the cause. Adopted children and adults need someone to speak out for them and demand the repeal of archaic laws that apply only to them and no others.
Angelina, et al, please raise you powerful voices to create laws that treat all equally -- adopted and non-adopted -- just as you, their parents, do. They deserve no less.