Supreme Court to hear challenge to Native American adoption law

WASHINGTON — The Supreme Court agreed Monday to hear a challenge to the constitutionality of the Indian Child Welfare Act 1978 making it...


WASHINGTON — The Supreme Court agreed Monday to hear a challenge to the constitutionality of the Indian Child Welfare Act 1978making it difficult for Native American children to be removed from their parents, tribes, and heritage.

The law, which provides special procedures for adoption, was rooted in the sovereignty of Indian nations and a history of abusive child welfare practices involving Indian children.

Family courts generally base their decisions on the best interests of the child before them. But the 1978 law states that other factors must be taken into account.

“The tribe has an interest in the child that is distinct from but parity with the interest of the parents,” Judge William J. Brennan Jr. wrote in a 1989 decision, Band of Choctaw Indians of Mississippi v. Holyfield. It was, Judge Brennan added, “a relationship that many non-Indians find difficult to understand.”

Three states – Texas, Louisiana and Indiana – and seven individuals have sued the federal government to challenge the law, saying it was an impermissible intrusion into matters traditionally governed by state law. and a violation of the principles of equal protection by putting a thumb on the legal scale based on one party’s race.

State attorneys told the Supreme Court that the law “creates a child custody scheme for Indian children that is determined by the genetics and ancestry of the child,” adding that “this race-based system is designed to make the adoption and fostering of Indian children from non-Indian families a last resort through various legal mechanisms that play favorites based on race.

Several tribes have intervened in the case to uphold the law. At the Supreme Court, they called the states’ racial discrimination argument inflammatory. The 1978 Act, they wrote, “is tied to Indian tribal affiliation – which is about politics, not race.”

The challengers mostly prevailed in a federal trial court and a three-judge split panel of the United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit in New Orleans. The full Fifth Circuit reconsidered the case, issuing a fractured decision that caused both sides to seek a Supreme Court review.

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Newsrust - US Top News: Supreme Court to hear challenge to Native American adoption law
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