The constitutional right to privacy did not include a right to remain anonymous in adoption surrenders.
A Tennessee bill made adoption records available to adoptees 21 years of age or older. Information could be released only to the parents, siblings, lineal descendants, or lineal ancestors, of the adoptee, and only with the adoptee's written consent. The bill also provided for a "contact veto," under which a parent, sibling, spouse, lineal ancestor, or lineal descendant of an adoptee could register to prevent contact by the adoptee.
Two birth mothers, an adoptive couple, and a child-placing agency moved to block the statute's enforcement, arguing that it violated their constitutional right to familial privacy and reproductive privacy. The district court denied their motion.
On appeal, the sixth circuit first noted that births were both intimate occasions and public events, records of which the government had long kept, for many reasons. The court then rejected the familial privacy argument because the statute would still leave people in Tennessee free to marry, raise children, adopt children, and surrender children for adoption. The court also rejected the reproductive privacy argument, reasoning that, because the statute did not limit adoptions or unduly burden the adoption process, the alleged constitutional right to surrender a child for adoption was not analogous to cases striking down laws restricting abortions.
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