New gender neutral California toy law inspired by simple question from eight-year-old

Gendered children's clothes

Large retailers in California are now required by law to stop marketing children’s products as gendered and to “maintain a gender-neutral section”.

Assembly Bill 1084, dating from 2021, and which forces retailers with 500 or more employees that sell childcare items or toys “to maintain a gender-neutral section or area to be labelled at the discretion of the retailer”, went into effect on Monday (1 January).

Stores that fail to comply can be hit with a $250 (£198) fine, rising to $500 (£396) for subsequent violations. 

“This section shall apply only to retail department stores that are physically located in California that have a total of 500 or more employees across all California retail department store locations,” the law states. 

The bill passed through the state legislature in a 49-16 vote and was signed into law by California Democrat governor Gavin Newsom, who, in November, blasted Florida governor Ron DeSantis for his anti-LGBTQ+ stance.

Co-author of the bill, California state assembly member Evan Low, revealed that he was inspired to introduce the legislation following an eight-year-old girl asking: “Why should a store tell me what a girl’s shirt or toy is?”

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Low said: “Her bill will help children express themselves freely and without bias. We need to let kids be kids.”

However, some people have already attempted to brand the legislation a “violation of free speech”. 

According to Advocate, Jonathan Keller, the president of not-for-profit religious organisation California Family Council, said: “We should all have compassion for individuals experiencing gender dysphoria, but activists and state legislators have no right to force retailers to espouse government-approved messages about sexuality and gender.

“It’s a violation of free speech and it’s just plain wrong.”