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Court hearing arguments in Native American adoptions case

The Associated Press - March 13, 2019 2:02 pm

NEW ORLEANS (AP) – Opponents of a 1978 law governing Native American adoptions have told a federal appeals court in New Orleans that the law is an unconstitutional threat to the well-being of children and families.

The Indian Child Welfare Act gives preference to Native American families in adoptions involving Native American Children. Opponents told the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals on Wednesday the law is a race-based intrusion on individual states’ adoption procedures. They also fear that a decision upholding the law could endanger adoptions already completed.

Indian tribes say the law is needed to preserve Native American families and culture.

A federal district judge in Texas struck down the law last year. The tribes want a three-judge panel of the 5th Circuit to overrule that judge. It’s unclear when the panel will rule.

The Texas ruling was a victory for opponents who say it is racially motivated and unconstitutionally discriminatory. Backers of the law, including numerous tribes and the federal government, say that if the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals upholds that decision, many Native American children will be lost to their families and tribes.

Backers of the law say its definition of “Indian child” is based on tribal affiliations that are political, not racial.

 

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