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Law governing adoptions of Native American children upheld

NEW ORLEANS — A federal appeals court has upheld the constitutionality of a 1978 law giving preference to Native American families in foster care and adoption proceedings involving American Indian children.

Friday’s decision by a panel of the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeal upholds the Indian Child Welfare Act and reverses a Texas-based federal judge. It comes in a case involving non-Indian families in multiple states who adopted or sought to adopt Native American children.

Opponents of the law called it an unconstitutional race-based intrusion on states’ powers to govern adoptions. But the 5th Circuit majority disagreed, saying the law’s definition of an “Indian child” is a political classification.

The decision was a victory for supporters of the law who say it’s needed to protect and preserve Native American culture and families.

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