A divided federal appeals court in the South has effectively struck down key parts of the federal law governing adoptions of Native American children.
Tuesday’s ruling from the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals upholds a lower court finding that the Indian Child Welfare Act’s preferences for Native American families in adoption cases are unconstitutional.
The ruling also says some of the provisions of the law “unconstitutionally commandeer” state officials’ duties in adoption matters.
Passed in 1978, the Indian Child Welfare Act has long been championed by Native American leaders as a means of preserving Native American families and culture.
Opponents of the law include non-Native families who have tried to adopt American Indian children in emotional legal cases.