CHICAGO -- A new law lets adults who were adopted obtain their original birth certificates, but some still might be unable to find out the identity of their birth parents.
Adoptees born before Jan. 1, 1946, can get access to their birth certificates right away under the law signed Friday by Gov. Pat Quinn. Those born after that date will have to wait until Nov. 15, 2011.
In the meantime, a statewide campaign will alert adoptees and birth parents to the new law. That will give birth parents time to take steps to keep their identities secret if they wish. In such cases, adoptees would get a birth certificate without a birth parent's name if they don't want it released.
Unless a birth parent opts to keep his or her identity secret, it would be released on an original birth certificate. Birth parents also can opt to make their contact information known or restrict it.
"This is really more of a bill for people who just want their birth certificate; they don't want contact," said state Rep. Sara Feigenholtz, an adoptee who sponsored the bill.
The law only allows access to birth certificates for adoptees 21 and older.
Not all adoption groups are happy with the new law.
"All adoptees deserve equal access to their original birth certificates," said Triennia Guider, a spokeswoman for Adoption Reform Illinois.
Republican House leader Tom Cross and other GOP lawmakers opposed the bill because it changes the rules for parents who put children up for adoption under the condition of anonymity, said Cross spokeswoman Sara Wojcicki.
Also, some lawmakers don't think the law gives birth parents enough time to opt out so the children they gave up can't learn their identities, Wojcicki said.
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Retired football player Howard Griffith, who went to the University of Illinois and later played for the Los Angeles Rams, Carolina Panthers and Denver Broncos, praised the new law.
While his birth mother had died, Griffith has tracked down his biological family and met his birth father and eight brothers and sisters.
Griffith said the law will give other adoptees the chance to find more about who they came from, something he said he often wondered about, especially during the holidays.
"There was always a time during those holidays where I would say ‘Who am I?"‘ Griffith said.
Marilyn Strohkirch of Bloomington, who has work on adoption-related issues for three decades, said she was "thrilled" by the legislation finally becoming law.
She said it could help adoptees find out about potential medical issues passed down from their birth parents, as well as learn about their history.
"It will be very beneficial to adoptees," Strohkirch said.
She believes the law will shield birth parents who do not want to be found by their offspring.
"There are a lot of safeguards in it," Strohkirch said. "I believe there will be protections."