In a surprise move, California Governor Gavin Newsom vetoed a bill that would have required courts to consider whether parents affirmed a child’s “gender identity or gender expression” in child custody decisions.

Newsom, a Democrat, was widely expected to sign Assembly Bill 957, which passed the Assembly 57-16 earlier this month.

In a veto message signed Sept. 22, Newsom said that while he shares “a deep commitment to advancing the rights of transgender Californians,” he was concerned that enacting the law would be an attempt “to dictate — in prescriptive terms that single out one characteristic — legal standards for the Judicial branch to apply.

“Other-minded elected officials, in California and other states, could very well use this strategy to diminish the civil rights of vulnerable communities,” explained Newsom.

Newsom added that courts are already required to consider factors “including a parent’s affirmation of the child’s gender identity” in child custody decisions.

The bill, introduced by Assemblymember Lori Wilson (D-Fairfield), defined “affirmation” as including “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.”

Wilson had 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.

The California Catholic Conference, which had opposed the bill, issued a statement on Sept. 25:

“The California Catholic Conference applauds Gov. Newsom’s decision to veto AB 957. This bill was an egregious legislative overreach that would have elevated 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.

“AB 957 was also based on the non-evidence-based practice of ‘genderaffirming care,’ which is widely disputed, especially evidenced in progressive European countries that do not recommend social and medical transition of minors and emphasize the need for psychological support for children. Affirmation itself includes a range of actions and will be unique for each child, which is why there was even bi-partisan concern at committee hearings that the bill would create confusion in family court between ‘gender affirmation’ and ‘gender affirmation medical care.’

“Rather than driving an unjustified and unscientific wedge between parents and children, we commend Gov. Newsom's choice to affirm the rights of parents by vetoing AB 957.”