California governor vetoes bill on gender-affirmation in child custody cases

California governor Gavin Newsom

California’s Democrat governor Gavin Newsom has vetoed a bill which would require judges in child custody cases to consider whether a parent affirms their child’s gender identity.

The legislation, which was was cleared by the California State Senate earlier in September, would make gender affirmation by parents a new factor which judges must consider during custody proceedings. 

The proposed law would not, however, require custody judges to prioritise a parent’s affirmation of their child’s gender identity above other factors.

The vote for this bill was split almost entirely between Democrats and Republicans.

On Friday (22 September) Newsom, who has been governor of California since 2019, returned AB 957 without his signature. 

In a press release addressing his veto, the governor 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. 

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

Newsom went on to note that courts, under existing law, are “required to consider a child’s health, safety, and welfare when determining the best interests of a child in these proceedings”, which includes a parent’s affirmation of their child’s gender. 

However, despite the veto, Newsom said he appreciates the “passion and values” which led Democrat Lori Wilson to author the bill, adding he shares a “deep commitment” to advancing the rights of trans people in California, “an effort that has guided my decisions through many decades in public office”. 

In response, Wilson issued a statement where she said she is “extremely disappointed” by the decision. 

She said: “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.

“However, on this point, the Governor and I disagree on the best way to protect [transgender] kids.”

She continued: “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.

“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.”