OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) — The Oklahoma Supreme Court has granted an emergency stay to keep a 3-year-old Cherokee girl with her biological father and plans to hear arguments from his lawyers and those of the girl's adoptive parents later Tuesday.
The court granted the stay Friday, although it only became public on the court's website Tuesday.
Veronica's birth mother was pregnant when she put the girl up for adoption, and a South Caroline couple, Matt and Melanie Capobianco, have been trying to adopt Veronica since she was born. Veronica's biological father, Dusten Brown, has been fighting the Capobiancos for custody ever since.
At the heart of Veronica's case is the Indian Child Welfare Act, established in 1978 in response to high rates of Native American children being adopted by non-Native families. A South Carolina family court awarded custody of the girl to Brown, a member of the Cherokee Nation, under the Indian Child Welfare Act. A family court in the same state later ruled that custody be awarded to the Capobiancos and ordered Brown to hand Veronica over. Brown refused.
South Carolina authorities charged Brown with custodial interference after he failed to show up to a court-ordered meeting.
The case is now with the Oklahoma Supreme Court. Both sides are expected at a hearing there Tuesday afternoon.
The hearings have been closed because it's an adoption proceeding, and neither side will comment because the court issued a gag order in the case. A call to Brown's lawyer was not immediately returned Tuesday and neither was a call and email to a spokeswoman for the Capobiancos.
The U.S. Supreme Court said in June that provisions of the act, which would favor Brown, didn't apply in the case. Veronica's birth mother is not Native American.
The dispute has raised questions about jurisdictions, tribal sovereignty and the federal law meant to help keep Native American tribes together.