Changes proposed to recognise adoption and lived gender on birth certificates

Michael Weaver 24 July 2020 27
Bernadette Blenkiron and her two children

“This is not the 1950s with the stigma and shame of hidden adoption,” says Bernadette Blenkiron, with her two children. Photo: Supplied.

A Canberra mother of two adopted children has become a driving force behind proposed changes to legislation in the ACT that will see both birth parents named on the birth certificates of adopted children.

Bernadette Blenkiron adopted her two children, now aged 9 and 10, in 2016, but their birth certificates named her as their mother while the father was stated as ‘unknown’. Her children’s birth certificates also stated that Ms Blenkiron gave birth to the children in hospital.

“I had been warned, but it was confronting for me to see it presented in this way,” she said.

“Wiping out reference to their biological parents felt completely inappropriate to me and so factually incorrect. No one was pretending I had given birth to these kids. This is not the 1950s with the stigma and shame of hidden adoption.

“They were so young then that I knew it would not bother them at that stage, but I was concerned by it. This was not a document that I would want them to have to present to get a passport later in life.”

In the ACT Legislative Assembly on Thursday (23 July), ACT Minister for Justice Shane Rattenbury’s proposed changes were introduced to allow for integrated birth certificates for adopted children that will now recognise their personal and family history.

“The current process of issuing a birth certificate with adoptive parents listed as birth parents reflects historical attitudes where secrecy was considered important to protect children and adoptive families from the stigma associated with adoption,” Mr Rattenbury said today.

“Integrated birth certificates mean recognition that those who have been adopted deserve the option of a birth certificate that shakes off this historical stigma, and that acknowledges the reality of their lived experience.”

Ms Blenkiron said she has been pushing the ACT Government to update the Births, Deaths and Marriages Act to be in line with other jurisdictions.

“This change in legislation helps formalise the truth that my children already know and reaffirms in writing my role as their mother,” she said.

“It took its time, and I kept chasing, but I am pleased that Minister Rattenbury has been able to achieve this.

“Ideally it should, and could, be so simply portrayed in a birth certificate that reflects they were born on this day at this hospital to their biological parents, and were subsequently adopted on this date into this family. That way, no ties are severed and connections to siblings and other family members are not lost.”

Ms Blenkiron has also explained to her nine-year-old that their birth certificate would show they were born to their biological parents, and then adopted.

“My son responded with, ‘how disrespectful, you don’t treat my dad like that and take him off my birth certificate. He is my dad’.

“That sums it up for me,” Ms Blenkiron said.

However, she said more work needs to be done to make it easier for people to adopt their children.

“While an accurate birth certificate is an important step for adoptees, there are many families I know that are desperate to adopt and formalise the relationship they already have with children in their care,” she said.

“Statistics show that adoption is an all too rare an event in the ACT. The legislation needs to change to see greater security and stability offered to those children who have been with loving families for years when it is clear they cannot return to their biological family.

“There is so much I could say here, but I hope to see an increase in the number of children being adopted in the ACT and some national consistency in approach.”

Minister for Justice Shane Rattenbury and Tait McAllister

Minister for Justice Shane Rattenbury and Tait McAllister from A Gender Agenda outside the ACT Legislative Assembly today. Photo: Supplied.

Another bill was also introduced in the Legislative Assembly this week to allow young people aged between 12 and 16 to have their true lived gender identity recognised on official documents.

The proposed legislation will give young transgender, intersex and gender-diverse Canberrans more accessible pathways to change their given names and sex details on birth certificates.

“Discrimination, prejudice and bullying adversely affect the emotional and physical safety of transgender, intersex and gender-diverse children and young people. Everyone deserves to have a birth certificate that reflects their true identity,” Mr Rattenbury said.

Both pieces of legislation will be debated next week and are expected to be agreed in principle.


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27 Responses to Changes proposed to recognise adoption and lived gender on birth certificates
Julie Macklin Julie Macklin 12:50 pm 26 Jul 20

It could affect future generations not to have the correct birth certificate, when trying to follow their family tree for medical reasons. A birth certificate needs to be accurate; listing the biological parents (when known) and the biological sex, whether that be male, female or undetermined. An official adoption certificate or 'social' certificate could be issued separately and carry the same weight, for non medical things, as a birth certificate, but the birth certificate, should remain a birth certificate.

Acton Acton 7:45 am 25 Jul 20

The first proposal makes sense because an adoptive parent is not the birth parent and saying so on a birth certificate would be a lie. Better to leave the birth parent field as a blank if unknown and clearly show an adoptive parent as such on a separate line.
The second proposal is ridiculous. What is to stop people seeking to change genders on their birth certificate multiple times, back and forth, as their emotions dictate. The birth certificate must show the facts at the time and place of birth. You were born male or female, or in very rare cases indeterminate. Nor should you be allowed to change the place of your birth, or the year of your birth, which some people may also like to do.

Steve Quasi Hoppitt Steve Quasi Hoppitt 9:54 pm 24 Jul 20

Too bad the Maya calendar wasn't right.Things have only become more stupid over the last eight years.

chewy14 chewy14 9:29 pm 24 Jul 20

Birth certificates should be a representation of a point in time.

The sex of someone as they were born shouldn’t be changed.

But people should be able to change their gender to whatever they want once they are of legal age.

So this law proposed law goes too far.

Kevin Hodder Kevin Hodder 7:27 pm 24 Jul 20

Two genders! you're either born male or female end of story!

    David Cole David Cole 8:07 pm 24 Jul 20

    Incorrect how??

    Sean Lawson Sean Lawson 8:08 pm 24 Jul 20

    Those aren't the only configurations people are born with, and there are conditions that lead to both male phenotype people with XX and female phenotype people with XY as well as fairly ambiguous or mixed phenotypes.

    Like this is entirely separate from whatever you want to argue about trans folk, gender identities, sex reassignment etc. Intersex people alone make this statement about the existence of a neat pure birth binary just literally incorrect.

    Kevin Hodder Kevin Hodder 8:30 pm 24 Jul 20

    Still only two sexes male and female.

    Kevin Hodder Kevin Hodder 7:52 am 25 Jul 20

    Stacey Griffiths even pre school kids understand you're a boy or a girl! Maybe you should attend I believe it's free also and if you can manage to colour inside the lines you can attend kindergarten the year after!

    Stacey Griffiths Stacey Griffiths 8:02 am 25 Jul 20

    Lol, you're literally admitting that your level of understanding of this is at a kindergarten level. Seriously, you don't understand the literal science which tells me that you're just a sad bigot who likes to make himself feel better by putting down other people.

    Kevin Hodder Kevin Hodder 8:12 am 25 Jul 20

    Lol know where in my post did I put someone down! that was you bagging on my education and implying I couldn't afford to go to cit. You're a hypocrite and a snob who is now calling me names like bigot to make yourself feel better! because you can't understand there is only male and female. And with only my ten certificate I probably earn double what you do! Not bad for bigot

    Kevin Hodder Kevin Hodder 8:53 am 25 Jul 20

    Male and female in every species except for a few that change sex! Humans ain't one of those. You're born male or female and that's what should be on birth certificate.

    Xx and xy anything else outside of that is just a birth defect.

    Jordana Martin Jordana Martin 10:12 am 25 Jul 20

    Imagine being this loud while being this wrong

    Stacey Griffiths Stacey Griffiths 12:04 pm 25 Jul 20

    Oh and you're welcome to free speech, say whatever as much as you want, but why is it that whenever alt-righters hear something they don't agree with (even when it's scientifically true!) they start crying about how "lefties" don't believe in freedom of speech.... (although we're not in America btw). I never said you couldn't say whatever you want, just said the things you are saying are bigoted. 🤔🤔

Stephen Saunders Stephen Saunders 7:00 pm 24 Jul 20

Seems a bit recherche, or first-world. And many will bristle.

But they are us, and we are them. Forgive me then, if I find Barr’s adult attitude more humane, than Morrison’s proudly-ignorant men’s-room sniggering, of “gender whispering” and “skin curling”.

Fortress Epiphany Fortress Epiphany 7:00 pm 24 Jul 20

I was adopted in the 1950s and met my birth mother in 1988. I’d be completely opposed to naming her on my birth certificate. You become the person “as adopted” and the birth parents become only the biological donors. It’s the least you can do to show your gratitude to your adoptive parents.

Felicity Jane Felicity Jane 6:16 pm 24 Jul 20

I completely disagree with naming biological parents on birth certificates when they give their children up to adoption. I would never want my biological father named on my certificate. There are also children conceived in violence they shouldn't be subjected to carrying that around on a document their whole lives. These sorts of determinations should not be taken with a blanket approach.

    Bernadette Blenkiron Bernadette Blenkiron 7:32 pm 24 Jul 20

    I don’t believe it will be a blanket approach. Room for the individual to choose

April Littrell April Littrell 2:47 pm 24 Jul 20

I guess nobody knows or cares about what BIRTH certificates mean. there are ID cards, drivers licences for lived gender.

    Joey Mann Joey Mann 12:23 pm 26 Jul 20

    My birth name was "Twin II Mann", but my birth certificate doesn't say this. I guess it's wrong then.

Natalie Grey Natalie Grey 12:46 pm 24 Jul 20

So on the one hand recognising the reality of the child's biological birth parents, but on the other hand denying the reality of the child's biological sex.

    Fiona Lovegrove Fiona Lovegrove 9:24 pm 24 Jul 20

    Lynne I agree that recognition is important but I don't agree that a birth certificate should be altered in any way. Why can't a separate certificate be issued?

    Kevin Hodder Kevin Hodder 8:21 am 25 Jul 20

    It's called a birth certificate! not what I choose to identify by certificate.

    Amy Pendragon Amy Pendragon 9:01 am 25 Jul 20

    I struggle with this because I have always believed that gender is a spectrum but on the other hand I am having my own experience with a child who doesn't want to identify with any gender and has chosen their own gender neutral name. While it is challenging for me (very traditional), I imagine it must be really challenging for the child. I understand the need for people to live as they feel but changing your sex on a birth certificate is a pretty big decision for a 12yr old. I understand the need to put the biological parents on a birth certificate though..we see how important it is on those Find My Family type shows. All contributors to the making of that person should appear on the birth certificate, including the surrogate who carried the baby and would have imprinted on that child.

    Joey Mann Joey Mann 12:03 pm 26 Jul 20

    A birth certificate is an identity document which would be rather useless if it did not reflect the identity of the bearer: try getting a passport or drivers license when you have ID that doesn't match. Allowing a person's documents to reflect *the person* also wouldn't deny the "reality of the child's biological sex" because a person identifying with a different gender does not alter their biological sex, only how they express their gender. These are not the same thing.

Natalee Gersbach Natalee Gersbach 11:56 am 24 Jul 20

Well done Bernie, fantastic work.

Linda Walshe Linda Walshe 11:50 am 24 Jul 20

Great work Bern!

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