A custody dispute between a 2-year-old girl's adoptive parents on James Island and her biological father in Oklahoma heads to the state's high court on April 17.
S.C. Supreme Court officials released the date of the hearing in the Veronica adoption case that captured national attention, but they said oral arguments would be closed to the public. Records in the case have been sealed, and all parties remain under a gag order.
Jessica Munday, a close friend of adoptive parents Matt and Melanie Capobianco, said she and other supporters place their faith with the high court and trust it "will make the best decision for everyone involved, based on the facts and laws placed in front of them."
The Capobiancos connected with Veronica's birth mother in Oklahoma in 2009 after seven failed in vitro fertilization attempts. Four months passed between Veronica's birth and the day her biological father, 30-year-old Dusten Brown, filed for paternity and custody.
Brown is a registered member of the Cherokee Nation. He and the Capobiancos endured two years of hearings and paperwork before a Charleston family court judge ruled later last year in his favor under the Indian Child Welfare Act, a federal law designed to preserve Native American families.
The judge ordered the Capobiancos to turn over Veronica, and Brown and his parents drove the toddler back to Oklahoma on New Year's Eve. The Capobiancos' friends gathered more than 20,000 signatures on a "Save Veronica" petition in the weeks that followed, and they hand-delivered the document to federal lawmakers' offices and to Gov. Nikki Haley in January. The couple took their case to the state Supreme Court that same month in hopes of overturning the family court ruling.
Munday said she has fielded dozens of emails and phone calls from other adoptive families in similar situations in the past few months. She said she hopes Veronica's case will bring a fresh look at the Indian Child Welfare Act.
"It has been very unfortunate that a small group of people view our support efforts as an anti-Native American campaign," Munday said. "That is simply not true. Many of our supporters are Native American. The issue is with the Indian Child Welfare Act and how it is being used."
Representatives for the Cherokee Nation declined to comment for this story.
Reach Allyson Bird at 937-5594 or on Twitter at @allysonjbird.