Palmore v. Sidoti

466 U.S. 429, 104 S. Ct. 1879 (1984)



A classification of persons according to their race is subject to the most exacting scrutiny, and to pass constitutional muster, such classification must be justified by a compelling governmental interest and must be necessary to the accomplishment of its legitimate purpose.


A white couple divorced and custody of the couple's child was awarded to the mother. The father then sought to modify the custody order because the mother was cohabiting with, and subsequently married, a man of a different race. The trial court awarded custody to the father, holding that the best interests of the child would be served thereby and that there would be a damaging impact on the child if she remained in a racially mixed household. The appellate court affirmed, and certiorari was granted. 


Did the State's governmental interests in protecting children support the toleration of prejudices based on race?




The court reversed and held that remarriage to a person of a different race was not sufficient to justify divesting the mother of child custody.

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