California Gov. Gavin Newsom, a Democrat, vetoed a bill late Friday night that would have required judges in child custody cases to consider whether a parent has affirmed their child’s gender identity.
AB 957 originally proposed that courts deciding custody cases must consider whether each parent affirmed the child’s gender identity. An amendment in June added a parent’s affirmation of their child’s gender identity to the state’s standard of what constitutes parental responsibility in a court of law for providing for “the health, safety, and welfare of the child.”
The bill was passed earlier this month by the state assembly, and was sent to the governor’s desk for his signature. But Newsom said in a statement released Friday night that he cannot sign the legislation.
The governor said he appreciates the “passion and values” that led Democrat Assemblywoman Lori Wilson to introduce the bill and that he shares 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,” Newsom wrote. “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,” he added.
When parents divorce and cannot agree on child custody, judges will determine custody based on a variety of factors.
Under AB 957, gender affirmation would have been one of the several factors for judges to consider in custody cases. Wilson, who coauthored the bill along with Democrat state Sen. Scott Wiener, has said the bill would not have required parents to move forward with gender transition medical treatment.
“I am extremely disappointed. I know the Governor’s record. He’s been a champion for the LGBTQ+ community for years and even before it was popular to do so,” Wilson said in a statement after the governor’s veto on Friday. “However, on this point, the Governor and I disagree on the best way to protect [Transgender, Gender-Diverse and Intersex] kids.”
Wilson said she has been “disheartened” over the last few years as she “watched the rising hate and heard the vitriol towards 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,” she said. “Whether the roadblock comes from the opposition or even a supporter, it only hardens my resolve. I’m far from done, this fight is personal! Not just for my family, but to all the trans kids that deserve a brighter and safer future.”
Wiener wrote on X, the platform formerly known as Twitter, that Newsom’s veto is “a tragedy for trans kids here & around the country. These kids are living in fear, with right wing politicians working to out them, deny them health care, ban them from sports & restrooms & erase their humanity. CA needs to unequivocally stand with these kids.”
The senator said the “level of right wing misinformation” about the bill was “astounding” and that “all the bill did was ensure that in custody disputes, a court would take into account the kid’s gender identity & whether parents would be supportive of the kid as opposed to tormenting the kid.”
“Governor Newsom has been such a staunch ally to the LGBTQ community. A true champion. Respectfully, however, this veto is a mistake,” Wiener wrote.
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