OKLAHOMA CITY -- The US Supreme Court ruled Tuesday on an important issue affecting Oklahoma families considering adoption involving the Indian Child Welfare Act (ICWA). The high court struck down a South Carolina Supreme Court decision which place baby Veronica with her biological father.
The 5-to-4 decision was controversial because that court sided with the biological dad and against the adoptive couple who had raised Veronica since birth. The dad is an Oklahoman, and has been living with baby Veronica in Oklahoma since she was taken away from the South Carolina couple.
Bill and Alicia Towler have taken a particular interest in the Supreme Court case because they fought a similar battle against the same Native American tribe, the Cherokee Nation.
The Towlers won their battle against the Cherokee nation earlier this year, and adopted their daughter, Ashlyn Rae.
"There is hope out there for other couples that want to adopt and may face some hurdles." said Alicia Towler.
It was an expensive and emotional court case.
The Cherokee nation put up a serious fight, even though baby Ashlyn's biological mother, a Cherokee tribal member, hand-picked the Towlers.
The birth mother and father testified on behalf of the Towlers in court, and against the Cherokee nation.
An Oklahoma district court judge ruled in favor of the Towlers and against the tribe.
They have raised Ashlyn since birth, and she was never taken away from them.
"I hope no one ever feels like, 'Gosh I can't do this because of these issues and these laws.' Go ahead and do it. Just do your homework and do it the right way." Bill Towler said.
Adoption attorneys Jim Ikard and Robert Boren believe the US Supreme Court ruling is a huge victory for adoption law, prospective adoptive couples and Native American birth mothers who want to chose their adoptive family.
"ICWA does not apply to voluntary placements that's what it seems to say." said Ikard after reading through the ruling.
"Unless you are breaking up an existing Indian family ICWA does not apply. We have said that all along in Oklahoma." said Boren.
Boren and Ikard have several Oklahoma cases this US Supreme Court ruling will affect.
"We've got a Creek, a Kickapoo and a Seminole right now. Three Indian birth mothers. We've already given notice to the tribes." Ikard said.
Expert say, even though the adoptive family in South Carolina won their case, they may not get baby Veronica back for weeks, months, or maybe as long as a year.