However, the full implications of the decision on adoptive children in this case and in future cases were not immediately clear. Some of the key points were the result of 8-8 votes. The lack of a majority meant that the lower court’s decision prevailed on these points, but that no binding precedent had been set by the appeals court.
Lawyers for both sides were reviewing the 325 pages on Tuesday evening. The case could end in the Supreme Court.
The 1978 law has long been championed by Native American leaders as a way to preserve Native American families and culture. In debates last year, an Home Office attorney said Congress passed the law after finding that state-level adoption standards lead to the break-up of Native American families.
Opponents of the law include non-Native families who have attempted to adopt Native American children in emotional legal cases.
“Our clients have brought this case to protect their families from being torn apart by discriminatory federal law,” Matthew D. McGill, senior counsel for the families of the plaintiffs, said in an email. “We are very pleased that today’s ruling has confirmed that ICWA’s discriminatory investment preferences are unconstitutional.”
Several couples seeking to adopt Native American children, a woman who wants her Native American biological child adopted by non-Native people and the states of Texas, Louisiana and Indiana were among the plaintiffs challenging the law.
Tuesday night’s decision marked a reversal for the appeals court. A three-judge panel voted 2-1 to overturn the district court and uphold the law in 2019. But a majority of 17 court members agreed to repeat the case. With one member challenged, 16 judges heard arguments in the case last year.
The resulting decision included multiple partial dissent and partially concurring opinions. On some issues a majority of the court agreed. Over others, the court tied, meaning the district court’s original ruling on the matter prevailed, although the appeals court’s ruling on the issues is not seen as a precedent in the cases. futures.