AUGUSTA, Maine — Amid tears of joy at the state’s Vital Records office, scores of people who had been adopted as children got their long-awaited wish Friday to receive copies of their original birth certificates.
“It was a lovely moment to be a part of,” said Paula Benoit of Phippsburg, one of those who received her birth records under a law she was instrumental in getting passed while serving as a state senator. “It’s just been quite a day. People are so full of joy.”
The law, which took effect with the new year’s arrival, allows adult adoptees access to their original birth certificates. Supporters say the law restores basic human and civil rights that were lost more than a half century ago when Maine began requiring adoptees to get court orders to see their birth certificates.
Maine is the second state in New England, after New Hampshire, to grant unrestricted access to original birth certificates. Maine’s law includes a protection for biological parents by allowing them to state they do not want to be contacted by a birth child.
Forty-six people had come into the Augusta office by midafternoon, but requests continued to stream in as adoptees lined up at a receptionist’s window, Vital Records officials said.
Among those lining up was Marlo Lund of Augusta, who came with an adoptive sister. Lund said she long has been curious about her roots and would like to find out more about her biological family’s medical history.
“It’s been just like an empty spot after I found out I was adopted,” Lund said. Her yearning to learn about her biological background grew stronger after her first child was born, she said. Lund said she plans to make contact with a biological parent, and would do so “discreetly.”
“It just depends on where the trail leads me,” she said.
Benoit described an emotional and tearful experience. Some of the adoptees embraced each other in shared joy, she said, while others preferred to maintain their privacy.
Benoit understands the frustration of having her request for original birth records turned down by the courts. After she was denied, she went to work on her legislation and a state official informed her of the names of her birth parents.
Along the way, there were some surprises. For example, Benoit discovered that two of her fellow legislators, Sen. Bruce Bryant, D-Dixfield, and Rep. Mark Bryant, D-Windham, are her nephews.
Only a few states outside of northern New England allow full disclosure, but Benoit pledged to take the issue to other states. Benoit’s Senate term ended last year.
Paul Schibbelhute, who lobbied for Maine’s law as New England director of the American Adoption Congress, checked in on the Vital Records office Friday to see how the review process was going. He said the state workers appeared to be well-prepared for barrage of requests, and accommodating.
“They had a year to get ready for this,” he said.