By Jessica Dye
NEW YORK, Dec 7 (Reuters) - A judge has denied a petition to
unseal the adoption file of a woman with the "heartfelt and
sincere desire" to find out if her birth mother was Jewish, but
disclosed the mother was Protestant.
Nassau County Surrogate Court Judge Edward McCarty said that
the anonymous 59-year old woman had not provided a sufficiently
compelling reason to unseal the decades-old file. According to
the Nov. 15 ruling, the woman had requested the information
because, under Jewish law, a person's religion is determined by
the mother's faith. The ruling did not indicate why the woman
wanted to learn whether she was Jewish.
While he denied the woman's petition, McCarty said in the
ruling that the woman's mother was Protestant.
The religion of birth parents is listed in New York Public
Health Law 4138-c(3) among the non-identifying information that
can be provided to adoptees, without requiring the file to be
Under New York state law, adoptees must establish "good
cause" before a court can order an adoption file to be unsealed.
It is "unusual," but not unprecedented, for courts to unseal
these records for non-medical reasons, McCarty wrote.
The judge cited a 2009 Nassau County case in which a man
adopted as a child who wanted to become a Hungarian citizen
petitioned to unseal his file to find out if his parents were
Hungarian. Even under those "notably unique circumstances," the
petitioner was only granted access to copies of his original
birth certificate, not his entire adoption file, McCarty wrote.
In contrast, McCarty pointed to a 2010 case from Kings
County Surrogate's Court, in which an adopted man sought to
unseal his adoption records so he could find out if he was of
Puerto Rican descent, in order to participate in a basketball
draft in Puerto Rico. That request was denied, McCarty wrote.
The case is In the Matter of the Application of Alice,
Surrogate's Court of the State of New York, Nassau County, No.
For the petitioner: Pro se.
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