California Governor Gavin Newsom (D) vetoed a bill Friday night that would have mandated courts factor in whether parents affirm their child’s transgender identity or “gender expression” in custody cases. Newsom claimed affirmation was already part of existing family law and warned by singling out one characteristic the legislature could be setting a precedent that would be used by others to “diminish the civil rights of vulnerable communities.”
Newsom is thought by many in politics to be laying the groundwork for a presidential campaign in 2028 or 2024 should Joe Biden not be able to run again.
The California Assembly passed the bill earlier this month on a party-line vote after passage in the state Senate in the summer. Passage of the bill raised fears parents would lose custody if they did not indulge their child’s gender dysphoria, with Elon Musk saying, “This bill is a wolf in sheep’s clothing. What it would actually mean is that if you disagree with the other parent about sterilizing your child, you lose custody. Utter madness!”
This bill is a wolf in sheep’s clothing.
What it would actually mean is that if you disagree with the other parent about sterilizing your child, you lose custody.
Utter madness! https://t.co/Mn2KcXCwUL
— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) September 8, 2023
Excerpt of AB 957 from the California Assembly:
AB 957, Wilson. Family law: gender identity.
Existing law governs the determination of child custody and visitation in contested proceedings and requires the court, for purposes of deciding custody, to determine the best interests of the child based on certain factors, including, among other things, the health, safety, and welfare of the child.
This bill, for purposes of this provision, would include a parent’s affirmation of the child’s gender identity or gender expression as part of the health, safety, and welfare of the child.
This bill would incorporate additional changes to Section 3011 of the Family Code proposed by SB 599 to be operative only if this bill and SB 599 are enacted and this bill is enacted last.
THE PEOPLE OF THE STATE OF CALIFORNIA DO ENACT AS FOLLOWS:
SECTION 1. Section 3011 of the Family Code is amended to read:
3011. (a) In making a determination of the best interests of the child in a proceeding described in Section 3021, the court shall, among any other factors it finds relevant and consistent with Section 3020, consider all of the following:
(1) (A) The health, safety, and welfare of the child.
(B) As used in this paragraph, the health, safety, and welfare of the child includes, among other comprehensive factors, a parent’s affirmation of the child’s gender identity or gender expression. 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.
To the Members of the California State Assembly:
I am returning Assembly Bill 957 without my signature. This legislation would require a court, when determining the best interests of a
child in a child custody or visitation proceeding, to consider, among other comprehensive factors, a parent’s affirmation of the child’s gender identity or gender expression.
I appreciate the passion and values that led the author to introduce this bill. I share a deep commitment to advancing the rights of transgender Californians, an effort that has guided my decisions through many decades in public 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.
Moreover, a court, under existing law, is required to consider a child’s health, safety, and welfare when determining the best interests of a child in these proceedings, including the parent’s affirmation of the child’s gender identity.
For these reasons, I cannot sign this bill.
Bill sponsor Assemblywoamn Lori Wilson issued a statement late Friday, saying she is “extremely disappointed.”
My Statement on Governor Newsom’s Veto of AB 957 pic.twitter.com/bK1JhrW27z
— Assemblywoman Lori D. Wilson (@AsmLoriDWilson) September 23, 2023