Oklahoma Governor Mary Fallin said on Tuesday that she will not intervene quickly in a dispute over a Cherokee Indian girl named Veronica whose adoption by a South Carolina couple is being challenged by her Native American biological father in Oklahoma.
Instead, she urged the girl's biological father and adoptive parents to try to reach an agreement that would best serve the girl's interests.
The fate of baby Veronica has become so tangled that the Republican governors of Oklahoma and South Carolina, Fallin and Nikki Haley, spoke on the phone about it on Tuesday.
After that discussion, Fallin said she would not immediately sign a request to extradite the biological father of the girl, Dusten Brown, from Oklahoma to South Carolina to face charges that he interfered with the custody of the girl.
Veronica's birth mother, who is not a Native American, arranged before the girl was born to give Veronica up for adoption to Matt and Melanie Capobianco of Charleston, South Carolina. Veronica herself is 3/256ths Cherokee.
The girl lived for the first 27 months of her life with the Capobiancos, but the South Carolina Supreme Court ruled that she would have to return to Brown, citing a law that Native American children should not be separated from their tribal heritage.
She was returned to Oklahoma and is believed to be living with some of Brown's family.
The U.S. Supreme Court overturned the South Carolina court decision in June, saying that Veronica had to return to the South Carolina couple. Brown refused and was arrested on Monday in Oklahoma for interfering with the girl's custody. He was released on bond and is scheduled to appear in court on September 12.
"As a mother, my heart goes out to Veronica, who has been placed in a terrible situation," Fallin said. "I can also imagine the pain that both her adopted and biological parents are feeling."
The Oklahoma governor urged Brown and the adoptive parents to reach an agreement that best serves the child.
"The legal system cannot deliver a happy ending in this case," Fallin said.
(Reporting By Brendan O'Brien and Greg McCune; Editing by Ken Wills)