Wyoming now has its own law to prioritize the placement of Native American foster and adopted kids within their tribal communities after Gov. Mark Gordon signed a bill Thursday to codify the federal Indian Child Welfare Act into state statute.
The new law, which was championed by the Northern Arapaho and Eastern Shoshone tribes, will act as a backstop in case the 1978 federal ICWA is thrown as unconstitutional. That’s become a possibility now that there’s a case — Haadland v. Brackeen — before the U.S. Supreme Court challenging the law’s constitutionality.
Opponents of ICWA argue that it’s unconstitutional because it’s race-based, though others say that it depends on political entities, or the sovereignty of tribes, rather than racial categories.
Those who challenge the law also say that it exceeds Congress’ power and infringes on states’ rights. If the high court overthrows ICWA on the latter argument, then it would be on states to decide what they want to do.
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Some states have preemptively put in place their own laws in case the high court overturns ICWA. Senate File 94, the bill that Gordon signed into law on Thursday, is meant to fill in that gap for Wyoming if the ICWA falls. The new law doesn’t change anything in Wyoming and would simply maintain the status quo.
Gordon also signed into law a bill that creates a task force to study the federal ICWA and make recommendations for customizing the law to Wyoming’s needs in the future.