to a tribe. A child like Lexi, 104 whose only connection to a tribe is biological, has no tribal
cultural ties to preserve—unless, of course, she is to be regarded as biologically different, and
consequently destined for a segregated legal regime due to her genetics.
A more realistic concern is that Indian children adopted into non-Indian households may
experience discrimination as a consequence of living in a mix-raced household. But this, too, is
not an acceptable foundation for barring trans-racial adoption. In Palmore v. Sidoti, the Supreme
Court ruled that, however strong the effects of social prejudice may be with regard to interracial
adoptions, the government cannot give those prejudices legal effect. 105 In that case, a Florida
court awarded custody of a child to a white father instead of the white mother, because the
mother was living with a black man. 106 To live with an inter-racial couple, the trial court
declared, would not be in the child’s best interests because the child would suffer from “peer
pressures” and “social stigmatization.” 107 In reversing, the Supreme Court admitted that “[t]here
is a risk that a child living with a step-parent of a different race may be subject to a variety of
pressures and stresses not present if the child were living with parents of the same racial or
ethnic origin,” 108 but declared that “however real” the effects of prejudice may be, they “cannot
justify a racial classification removing an infant child from the custody of its natural mother
[who has been] found to be an appropriate person to have such custody.” 109 While race can be a
consideration in child custody determinations, under Palmore it may not be the operative
104 See infra Part II.D. 1.
105 466 U.S. 429 (1984).
106 Id. at 430– 31.
107 Id. at 431.
108 Id. at 433.
109 Id. at 434.
110 See, e.g., J.H.H. v. O’Hara, 878 F.2d 240, 245 (8th Cir.1989); Drummond v. Fulton City Dep’t of Fam. & Child.