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California Seeks to Factor Support for Gender Identity Into Custody Decisions

California Seeks to Factor Support for Gender Identity Into Custody Decisions

California legislators Scott Wiener and Lori Wilson

The California Senate approved a bill to this effect Wednesday.

California is advancing legislation that would require judges in custody cases consider whether parents support a child’s gender identity.

The California Senate passed the measure, Assembly Bill 957, largely along party lines Wednesday. It had already passed the Assembly, but it needs to go back to the Assembly for concurrence with Senate amendments before Gov. Gavin Newsom signs it into law.

The bill “would include a parent’s affirmation of the child’s gender identity or gender expression as part of the health, safety, and welfare of the child,” and courts must already take health, safety, and welfare into account, notes an online summary of the legislation.

Democratic Assemblymember Lori Wilson, who has a transgender son, introduced the bill. “Wilson said gender 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 Associated Press reports. It does not mandate any gender-confirming medical procedures.

“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,” the bill states. It does not require courts to prioritize a parent’s attitude toward gender identity above other considerations.

Democratic Sen. Scott Wiener, a gay man, said the legislation is proactive. “This is about not having to get involved after a child has been beaten and had their arm broken, or after they’ve been kicked out,” he said, according to the AP. “This is about trying to make sure that something terrible does not happen to them.”

Alexis Sanchez of the Sacramento LGBT Community Center also spoke in favor of the bill, saying it would help children when they are most vulnerable. “A child whose parents are going through a divorce is going through probably one of the worst and most challenging experiences of their life [up] to that point,” Sanchez said.

All Republican senators opposed the legislation. One of them, Kelly Seyarto, said it interferes excessively with family relationships, the AP reports. “Inserting this into the mix is going to pit one parent against the other and make things worse,” Seyarto said.

This week the Senate also passed a bill providing for the sealing of name and gender change records for minors. It is headed back to the Assembly for concurrence as well.

In another major action, the California Senate approved a resolution calling on Congress to hold a “limited constitutional convention” so it could consider further gun restrictions. As legislators and courts often cite the Second Amendment to the U.S. Constitution as a reason not to approve barriers to gun ownership, Newsom wants to see a new constitutional amendment “to require universal background checks, and to ban assault weapons, as well as guns to anyone under 21, and to impose a waiting period on all gun purchases,” the AP notes.

To call a constitutional convention on this matter, 33 states would have to approve such a resolution. If the California Assembly passes it after the Senate action, that state would be the first. It stipulates that the convention would be limited to discussion of gun sales, but some politicians, including Democrats, are worried that it would enable other, unwanted changes to the Constitution.

Pictured: California Sen. Scott Wiener and Assemblymember Lori Wilson

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