A child custody battle involving a Texas foster couple who wish to adopt a Native American child placed in their care has raised questions about the constitutionality of a 40-year-old federal law. The Indian Child Welfare Act requires authorities to give Native American families priority in adoption cases involving Native American children. Congress passed the law to protect Native American communities and culture, but the federal judge who heard the case involving the Texas couple ruled that it was unconstitutional because it was based on race.
That decision is now being appealed, and Native American leaders are worried that other laws put into place to protect their communities could be questioned if it is affirmed. The constitutionality of the ICWA is also being challenged in federal courts by lawsuits filed by the states of Louisiana and Indiana. Many legal experts believe that the issue will eventually be argued before the Supreme Court.