California governor vetoes bill requiring custody courts to weigh affirmation of gender identity
Sep 23, 2023, 1:33 PM
SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) — California Gov. Gavin Newsom has vetoed a bill that would have required judges to consider whether a parent affirms their child’s gender identity when making custody and visitation decisions.
In announcing his veto Friday night, Newsom released a statement saying he has “a deep commitment to advancing the rights of transgender Californians” that has guided his decisions while in office.
“That said, I urge caution when the Executive and Legislative branches of state government 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,” the governor’s statement said.
The bill would have made gender affirmation one factor among many that courts already have to consider in custody proceedings, including whether a parent has been abusive and how much contact the child has with the parents.
The bill would not have required judges to prioritize whether a parent affirms their child’s gender identity over other factors. What affirmation looks like varies depending on the particular child and their age, said Assemblymember Lori Wilson, a Democrat who introduced the bill. She has an adult son who came out as transgender when he was a teenager.
Wilson said Friday that she was disappointed by the governor’s veto.
“I’ve been disheartened over the last few years as I watched the rising hate and heard the vitriol toward the trans community. My intent with this bill was to give them a voice, particularly in the family court system where a non-affirming parent could have a detrimental impact on the mental health and well-being of a child,” Wilson said in a statement.
Newsom said existing laws already require courts to consider health, safety and welfare when determining the best interests of a child in custody cases, including the parent’s affirmation of the child’s gender identity.
Every Republican in the Senate voted against the bill, with state Sen. Kelly Seyarto, who represents Murrieta in Southern California, arguing that lawmakers were interfering too much with how parents choose to raise their children.
“Inserting this into the mix is going to pit one parent against the other and make things worse,” Seyarto said at the time.
The veto comes amid intense political battles across the country over transgender rights, including efforts to impose bans on gender-affirming care, bar trans athletes from girls and women’s sports, and require schools to notify parents if their children ask to use different pronouns or changes their gender identity.