Newsom Vetoes Bill on Parental Support of Child’s Gender Identity in Custody Cases

The News

Gov. Gavin Newsom of California vetoed a bill on Friday that would instruct judges presiding over custody battles in the state to take into consideration a parent’s support for a child’s gender identity when making custody and visitation decisions.

Why It Matters: The veto signals a break from the governor’s stance in support of transgender rights.

In a letter accompanying his veto on Friday, Mr. Newsom, a Democrat, said that while he while he shares “a deep commitment” to advancing transgender rights, he urged caution about making legal standards “in prescriptive terms that single out one characteristic.”

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

The governor added that under existing state law, the court is required to consider a child’s health, safety and welfare in these proceedings, which he said already includes the parent’s affirmation of the child’s gender identity.

In a statement responding to his veto, Assemblywoman Lori Wilson, the bill’s sponsor, said she was “extremely disappointed.” She added that she has been “disheartened” by the “rising hate and vitriol” toward transgender people.

The veto signals a break from Mr. Newsom’s usual stance on transgender rights. Ms. Wilson called him a “champion” for L.G.B.T.Q. people, especially those in the transgender community. And Senator Scott Wiener, who co-sponsored the bill, said the governor was a “staunch ally.”

On Saturday, Mr. Newsom announced that he signed into law other legislation strengthening protections for L.G.B.T.Q. Californians, including a measure that requires that petitions from minors for a change of gender and sex identifier must be kept confidential, and one that establishes a task force to identify L.G.B.T.Q. children’s needs statewide.

“Respectfully, however, this veto is a mistake,” Mr. Wiener said on X, the platform formerly known as Twitter.

Background: The child custody bill passed along party lines this month.

The bill on gender affirmation in custody battles, Assembly Bill 957, would have amended existing state law to say that the court’s consideration of the health, safety and welfare of the child in custody disputes should also include the consideration of “a parent’s affirmation of the child’s gender identity or gender expression.”

The bill does not require a judge to side with the parent who affirms the child’s gender identity but instructs the court to take it into consideration. It passed the State Legislature this month.

When it comes to what “affirmation” means, the legislation is vague and does not specify whether a child needs to be on puberty blockers or have undergone gender-transition surgery. “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,” according to the measure.

Ms. Wilson, a Democrat, previously told The Associated Press that affirmation could include letting children play with toys associated with their gender identity, getting their nails painted or wearing their hair at a length that feels comfortable.

The bill, which passed along party lines, sparked an intense debate in the State Legislature, with many Republicans arguing that it was interfering with how parents decide to raise their children. After the veto, several Republicans celebrated the move.

“This is fantastic news, and the right call,” said Representative Bill Essayli.

What’s Next: The measure goes back to the Legislature.

A two-thirds vote in both chambers, where Democrats hold supermajorities, could override Mr. Newsom’s veto.

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