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Starting Now: Adoptees In New York State Can Apply For Original Birth Certificates

NEW HYDE PARK, N.Y. (CBSNewYork) -- For the first time, adoptees in New York state can apply for their original birth certificates.

The Empire State is now the 10th state to grant those who were adopted the right to know their record of birth.

It has been a very long fight for residents, decades actually. Advocates said the new law marks the end of secrecy and the beginning of a basic human right, CBS2's Carolyn Gusoff reported Wednesday.

Meagan Kedenburg was among the first to apply. Adopted at 2 weeks old, her birth parents' identities remained a mystery.

"I'm excited about anything that I can find out," she said, adding she feels, "anger, because you never know what your health characteristics are. You want to know where you got your eye color, where you got your height, your weight ... everything. Genealogy."

NYC Birth Certificate
New York City birth certificate (credit: New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene)

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Kedenburg recently found her birth father's identity through a DNA website. He is deceased police officer, who had five children.

"It's amazing to finally find out after 59 years of all the questions," she said.

However, she said she longs to know the identity of her birth mother, adding it's a matter of health and her genetic history.

It has been a long fight for adopted New Yorkers like Joseph Pessolano, a member of the group Unsealed Initiative. He joined others Wednesday applying in person in Manhattan.

"They do have access to their truth now, genealogy and history, which every human has a right to," Pessolano said.

"I'd like to get it before I die," Unsealed Initiative vice president Joan Morgan added.

"Why should it be a secret? They trace dogs and racehorses. They've all got papers, but I don't have papers," adoptee Thomas McGee said.

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Since the 1930s states have shielded birth parents, with adoption agencies promising lifelong confidentiality. Opponents believed it protected birth parents' privacy and adoptive families from unwanted contact later in the child's life.

It took a court order to obtain information, and was usually nearly impossible to unseal. But now it's as simple as an online application.

"The New York State Legislature took the position that it's more important for somebody to know their medical history, and self-identifying history, just like anybody else," attorney Joseph Milizio said.

Now it's as a simple as an online application for an adoptee over the age of 18 or direct descendant. You can also file by mail or in person with a $45 money order.

Birth certificates will not be issued while you wait in person. It could take up to four months.

Sealed records date to 1938, so there could be hundreds of thousands in the state.

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