California Gov. Gavin Newsom signed several laws over the past week, making the state the first to outlaw nonconsensual removal of a condom during sex, known as “stealthing,” as well as passing the first law in the U.S. that requires large department stores to display items like toys and child care items in gender-neutral ways.
Newsom signed the anti-stealthing bill Thursday. The law makes it a civil offense for someone to remove a condom without their sexual partner’s consent.
“For a majority of the people, it's like, ‘Yeah, it makes sense that this is immoral and it should be illegal,’” said state Assemblymember Cristina Garcia, who sponsored the bill, according to NPR. “A lot of people told me, ‘I can't believe it's not already illegal.’”
The bill was approved unanimously by the California legislature.
On Saturday, Newsom signed the law on gender-neutral toy sections. The new law is a win for LGBTQ+ advocates who say the pink and blue colors that have usually come with traditional marketing methods in these stores have pressured children to follow traditional gender norms, reported the Associated Press.
The news wire reported that the law does not prohibit boys’ or girls’ sections; it states that stores with 500 employees or more must provide a gender-neutral display as well with “a reasonable selection” of toys or items.
“Keeping similar items that are traditionally marketed either for girls or for boys separated makes it more difficult for the consumer to compare the products and incorrectly implies that their use by one gender is inappropriate,” the law states.
Clothes sections won’t be affected by the law.
California Assemblymember Evan Low, a Democrat from San Jose, authored the bill after he heard a story from one of his staffers whose daughter had asked her mother why there were certain items in stores that were “off limits” to girls.
“We need to stop stigmatizing what’s acceptable for certain genders and just let kids be kids,” Low said, according to the AP. “My hope is this bill encourages more businesses across California and the U.S. to avoid reinforcing harmful and outdated stereotypes.”
Low said he was “grateful” to Newsom. California lawmakers had tried passing similar legislation in the past, failing to do so in 2019 and 2020.
Opponents of the bill argued that the law was interfering with companies stocking their stores as they see fit.
“Retail stores are very attuned to the supply and demand of their merchandise, and they are very aware of the clientele they serve,” wrote the Capitol Resource Institute, a public policy organization that advocates Judeo-Christian values, reported The Washington Post.” “We do not believe it is the role of the California Legislature to overstep the natural process of the free market.”
Others attacked the bill for its focus on providing gender-neutral options.
“Activists and state legislators have no right to force retailers to espouse government-approved messages about gender,” said Jonathan Keller, president of the conservative California Family Council lobbying group, in a statement. “It’s a violation of free speech and it’s just plain wrong.”
Large department stores have already begun changing how they market their toys and clothing. For example, Target, which has almost 2,000 stores in the U.S., announced in 2015 that it wouldn’t use gender-based signs in its stores anymore, reported the AP.
California’s gender-neutral toy section law takes effect January 1, 2024.