California courts’ child custody decisions must consider whether a parent affirms a child’s “gender identity or gender expression,” under a bill the California Legislature approved Friday.
The California Assembly passed Assembly Bill 957 on Friday by a party-line vote of 57-16, with several Democrats not voting, KCRA 3 News reported. The state Senate passed the legislation on Wednesday in a 30-9 vote, with all Republicans voting against the bill. Gov. Gavin Newsom is expected to sign the bill by the legal deadline of Oct. 14.
The concept of “gender” has come to mean more than biological sex. It now has connotations of a social role that allows boys to identify or act like girls and vice versa. Gender identity now includes categories such as transgender and nonbinary.
“Affirmation includes a range of actions and will be unique for each child, but in every case must promote the child’s overall health and well-being,” the California bill states.
Affirmation of gender would become one factor among others in granting child custody as part of concerns for a child’s health, safety, and welfare. Other factors include parental abuse and the amount of contact a child has with his or her parents, the Associated Press reported.
Assemblymember Lori Wilson, a Democrat who introduced the bill, said gender affirmation could mean letting a child play with toys associated with his or her gender identity, getting nails painted, or wearing his or her hair at a desired length.
There are no specific requirements regarding purported gender-affirming surgeries, which minors can undergo in California only with parental consent.
California law already bars custody courts from considering a parent, legal guardian, or relative’s sex, gender identity, gender expression, or sexual orientation when determining the best interests of a child.
The California Catholic Conference opposed the bill.
“We strongly support parents affirming the goodness of their children and compassionately caring for children with gender dysphoria,” the conference said in a legislative report on its website. “Our concern is that this bill places a thumb on the scale for custody against loving, protective parents that lacks sufficient data to be warranted.”
The Catholic conference said the bill “would elevate a loving, protective parent’s non-consent to a child’s social or medical transition to the same level as abuse, violence, or substance use in the eyes of the court for custody disputes and parenting time.”
“Rather than driving a wedge between children and parents, it is in the best interest of children to promote parental communication and involvement,” its analysis said.