INDAN CHILD CUSTODY BILL
FROM: Mike W. Ray, Media Director
Oklahoma House of Representatives
March 20, 1995
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Contact: State Rep. Russ Roach
Capitol: (405) 521-2711
Tulsa: (918) 743-1935
Author of Indian Child-Custody Bill
Vows to Continue Despite Setback
OKLAHOMA CITY -- Although a bill to clarify state law pertaining
to custody of Indian children in domestic disputes was soundly
defeated on the House floor last week, "I'm not giving up," the
author of the measure vowed Monday.
The obituary on the death of the concepts embodied in House Bill
1966 "was premature," said Rep. Russ Roach, D-Tulsa. "It took me
four years to pass tax-increment financing. I don't intend to
give up until the rights of Indian parents are written into
Roach said he introduced the bill because, "Indian tribes treat
their own members in a paternalistic manner," asserting that the
tribes think they "can make better decisions" about the
voluntary placement of children than the parents themselves can.
"After years of complaining that the federal government treats
Indians in a paternalistic fashion, I find that ironic," Roach
said. There were general provisions of HB 1966 which benefitted
Indians. These were:
Indian tribes would be prohibited from interfering in
child-custody matters stemming from divorce proceedings. "We
don't even allow the State of Oklahoma to interfere unless there
is compelling evidence a parent has done something wrong," Roach
said. "Interference from Indian lawyers is just as bad as
interference from state-government bureaucrats."
An Indian child placed in a non-Indian home would have to be
informed of his/her tribal affiliation when they turn 18 years
Indian tribes would have been permitted to access federal funds
when resolving difficult placement cases, such as those
involving handicapped children. During his tenure in the
Legislature, "I have learned that right doesn't always prevail
on the House or Senate floor," the fifth-term lawmaker said.
"False information has won many a legislative debate."
Even though HB 1966 was defeated in the House by a vote of
10-90, "I intend to proceed in behalf of Indian children, who
also are entitled to the state's protection," Roach vowed. "Even
Indian attorneys told me there was nothing wrong with my bill,"
Many then told members to vote against the bill without
informing Roach. "After you sit down and invite participation
and discussion, and then people turn around and knife you in the
back, it just intensifies your commitment."