A Virginia Senate committee, weighing emotional arguments about the rights of adopted children and their natural and adoptive parents, decided today that all three parties to an adoption must be considered when an adoptee seeks the identity of the biological parents.
The Senate Committee on Rehabilitation and Social Services soundly beat back attempts to amend current state law by giving the adopted child the absolute right to learn the identity of his biological parents upon reaching the age of 18.
"You are denying me my right to know my biological heritage," protested Sen. Frederick T. Gray (D-Chesterfield), who sponsored the amendment.
But Sen. Joseph V. Gartlan Jr. (D-Fairfax), a member of the subcommittee studying adoption issues, said he was convinced the state was right to require the courts to "consider all parties to the triangle" in natural parent identity cases.
Citing testimony from earlier public hearings on the matter, Gartlan said there was a need to balance "the anxiety of the individual who desperately wants to find his natural parents and the anxiety of the adoptive parents over what this would do to their relationship with their adopted child."
Gartlan said the subcommittee listened to advice from professionals in the field who warned that making it too easy for adoptees to learn their parents' identity would discourage prospective adoptive parents. The District of Columbia City Council, which rejected similar legislation last year, is expected to reconsider it this year.
The Virginia legislative subcommittee was originally set up to study another bill introduced last year that would have allowed an adoptee to get information about the identity of the parents if the courts could find "good cause" for releasing such information.
That "good cause" policy has been followed by the courts since 1966, but the 1977 General Assembly broadened that guideline and told the courts to also consider the rights of the adoptive and natural parents to confidentiality.
In other action, the Virginia Senate approved a bill that would remove the state division of aeronautics from control of the State Corporation Commission, one of the state's powerful regulatory agencies. The division of aeronautics would become part of the government controlled by the state secretary of transportation under the measure which now goes the House.
A bill that would create a seventh member of the state cabinet, a secretary of natural resources, was killed by a 10 to 9 vote in the House Conservation and Natural Resources Committee. Both the cabinet and aeronautics bill were sponsored by a commission that has recommended reorganization of various state agencies.