California Legislature passes bill requiring gender confirmation in custody cases; Do you know what it is?

The California State Assembly has passed a bill, AB 957, that makes gender confirmation a factor to be considered in child custody cases. The bill, which passed Friday by a vote of 57-16, was previously approved by the California Senate by a vote of 30-9.

This new legislation, titled the “Transgender, Gender-Diverse, and Intersex Youth Empowerment Act,” aims to prioritize the “health, safety, and welfare” of children, with an emphasis on affirming a child’s gender identity. The bill, originally introduced by Democratic Rep. Lori D. Wilson on Feb. 24, underwent changes in the Assembly on March 13 and further changes in the Senate on June 5 before receiving final approval.

Under the proposed law, parents who do not acknowledge and support their child’s gender transition could face potential consequences, including loss of custody to another parent or even the state itself. Proponents of the bill argue that it is in the best interests of children and aims to create a more inclusive and positive environment for gender diverse youth.

Democratic lawmakers who supported the bill claim it is a necessary step to ensure the well-being of transgender and gender diverse children. They argue that judges already have discretion when it comes to gender affirmation, but the legal formalization provides clear guidelines for judges to follow.

However, Republican opposition has raised concerns, claiming that this legislation could violate parents’ rights and autonomy. Critics claim this could lead to parents being punished for not complying with a child’s gender reassignment procedure, which they say represents government overreach.

Greg Price, who works as communications director for the State Freedom Caucus Network, said the bill’s author, Lori Wilson, issued a statement. Wilson’s point was that parents are generally supportive of their children, especially if their gender identity matches their biological sex. However, when there is a mismatch between the two, this support tends to decrease. Wilson argued that it is our responsibility as parents to support our children, regardless of their gender identity.

Elon Musk, a California-based entrepreneur and owner of the social media app X, formerly known as Twitter, responded to the bill. He expressed his concerns and said that the bill was misleading in nature. According to Musk, this means that if there are disagreements over medical procedures such as sterilizing their child, parents could be at risk of losing custody. He strongly disagreed with this idea, calling it “complete madness.” Michael Seifert, CEO of Public Square, expressed strong disapproval of California’s decision, calling it “legal evil.” He also mentioned that he was glad he left the state because he felt it had changed so much that it was no longer the place he used to call home.

Seth Dillon, the CEO of Babylon Bee, suggested that there should be a different approach instead of the current bill. He suggested that when it comes to gender confirmation for children, the focus should be on parents who confirm their child’s false gender identity and potentially lose custody.

The bill’s author, Rep. Lori D. Wilson, previously emphasized that the legislation does not require judges to prioritize gender affirmation over other factors. She was quoted by the AP news agency as saying that the meaning of an affirmation can vary depending on the child and age.

According to Wilson, gender affirmation could include allowing children to play with toys related to their gender identity, painting their nails, or choosing hairstyles that feel comfortable.

Importantly, the bill does not outline specific requirements for gender-affirming surgeries, a key decision that remains subject to parental consent for minors in California.

California Gov. Gavin Newsom, a Democrat, is expected to sign the bill, underscoring the state’s commitment to strengthening LGBTQ+ rights and child protection. This legislation is part of a broader effort by California lawmakers to protect the well-being of LGBTQ+ children, including a recent Senate approval to keep gender reassignment petition materials for minors out of public records.

(Edited by: Sudarsanan Mani)

First Published: September 9, 2023, 12:13 PM IST

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