For nearly 34 years, adult adoptees have been trying to change New Jersey law so that they can have something the rest of us take for granted - access to their birth records.

Adoptee groups say that without such access they are denied a family health history and the knowledge of their own identity.

The state Legislature sent Gov. Chris Christie a bill last month that would grant adoptees access to their original birth certificates and make it easier for them to contact their birth parents.

The bill, S873, would allow adoptive parents, adult adoptees or the children of adoptees to request birth certificates and related materials from the state Department of Health. It would also let birth parents indicate whether they would like to be contacted by adoptees, whether they want no contact, or whether they only wish to be contacted through an intermediary.

Parents who prefer not to be contacted would still have to provide family health information periodically.

Christie should sign the measure. It's time for New Jersey to join eight other states, including Kansas, Maine, New Hampshire and Oregon, that give adopted people unrestricted access to birth certificates.

The bill, which quickly passed the Senate and Assembly, is nearly identical to a bill passed in 2011, which Christie conditionally vetoed.

At that time, Christie agreed with the New Jersey Catholic Conference and New Jersey Right to Life, which recommended alternative legislation that would have opened birth records only if an intermediary is unable to find birth parents after a yearlong search. Birth parents who did not wish contact with adoptees would be asked to provide family health histories, but they would not be required to do so.

These groups are concerned that women who have given children up for adoption may be embarrassed, may not want to be reminded of the adoption and risk having their lives disrupted.

Advocates for adoptees say that these problems have not arisen in the other states that have opened access to birth certificates. And family health histories are too important to allow birth parents to put up a stone wall.

This is not an easy issue, and emotions run high on both sides. But it really comes down to a civil right. In fact, it is the most basic right - the right to know who you are.

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