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Opinion | I know my Michigan birth parents. Give me my birth certificate

I am one of the thousands of people born in Michigan and adopted during its “black hole” era. We were adopted on or after May 28, 1945, but before September 12, 1980, so we cannot obtain our original birth certificates (OBC) except by court order.

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Beth Weaver is an adoptee from Michigan's closed era and advocates for original birth certificates being unsealed when confidentiality has been broken. She was born in Alma and today is a writer and motivational speaker.

It is time for the Michigan government to unseal our OBCs if we can prove we know our birth name as well as the names of our biological parents and/or their consent to be contacted is on file with the Central Adoption Registry. It is our human right to have these documents that are part of our life stories.

During the closed era of adoptions, our OBCs were sealed. We were given a new birth certificate with our adopted name. All connections between us and our biological families were severed. Through the registry, biological parents can place their consent to be contacted when we are 18, so we can learn their names. However, our OBC is forever locked away unless we can get a court order to unseal it, which is not easy to do. For some of us, it is unspeakably painful to not have official proof of who we were when we were born.

No one has given me a logical explanation for why we cannot have our OBC even if we know our biological parents’ names and/or their consent to be contacted is on file. I’ve been told there is simply no exception to the law and that our numbers are so small that we aren’t a priority for lawmakers. If these are the reasons why our OBCs remain sealed in this situation, then with all due respect, this is unjust.

We can safely assume the law was made to protect confidentiality, which must be maintained. However, in 2023, what constitutes confidentiality, including how to know when it has been broken, is very different from how it was defined during the closed adoption era.

Confidentiality is fundamentally about protecting the names of the biological parents and respecting their desire to not be contacted. Crucially, Michigan’s registry is no longer the only way for an adoptee to learn the names of their birth parents. As an example, I was reunited with my biological family through

This brings me to two points: First, if Michigan is no longer the only source of the names of biological parents, then confidentiality today must mean something very different. Second, withholding an OBC from an adoptee, one who knows their birth name and the names of their biological parents, is not going to prevent the adoptee from contacting them. 

Under these circumstances, if withholding the OBC does not protect the confidentiality of the birth parents, then what is the point of keeping it from adoptees who want it?

Something else to consider is this: Adoptees who were adopted before May 28, 1945, or after September 12, 1980, can obtain their OBCs under certain guidelines. So, this raises two more points: First, Michigan apparently sees nothing inherently wrong with giving an adoptee their OBC and, second, as adoptees from the closed era we are literally the only people from the state who are not legally entitled to proof of our identities at birth. 

How can this possibly be fair?

It is not. Not even close.

Not all adoptees want their OBC. For those of us who do, we should not have to explain why. That is private. It does not matter that we already know the names on the OBC and so cannot learn anything new from it. It was issued when we were born, it is about us, and we should be able to have it. 

It’s up to us — not lawyers, politicians, social workers, government officials, or anyone else with an opinion — to decide how important our OBC is or is not.

Open Michigan. Amend the law so that we can obtain our OBC if we know the names listed on it and/or our biological parents have consented to be contacted. We are human beings. Let us finally have what was always ours by right: government confirmation of our full identities from the moment we were born.

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