The Maryland Senate decided Tuesday that an adopted person's search for roots is less important than the natural mother's right to never meet her child face-to-face.

The decision came after two hours of debate capped by a 33-to-12 vote rejecting a bill that sought to make it easier for an adopted person to learn the identity of the natural parent.

Under existing procedures, adoption records are confidential and can be opened only by court order. The bill by Sens. Clarene Mitchell, (D-Baltimore) and Thomas O'Reilly, (D-Prince George's), touched off some of the most sustained debate of the 1978 General Assembly session.

"I don't believe the rights of a child should over-shadow the rights of the adoptive parents and the natural parents," Sen. Jerome Connell, (D-Anne Arundel), said. "I don't see how you can ignore the rights of two parties to give rights to a third," Connell said. "We cannot speculate with these rights."

Sen. Julian Lapides, (D-Baltimore), took the opposite position, saying: "This bill deals with the right of the individual child who wants to know his roots. I believe his rights are paramount. There are kids in Maryland who want to know their roots just one generation back."