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California Bill Requiring Judges to Favor ‘Gender-Affirming’ Parents in Child Custody Battles Sent to Newsom’s Desk

California Bill Requiring Judges to Favor ‘Gender-Affirming’ Parents in Child Custody Battles Sent to Newsom’s Desk

Parents pick up their children in Chicago, Ill., on March 1, 2021. (Scott Olson/Getty Images)

Brad Jones

Brad Jones

9/8/2023

Updated: 9/10/2023

Parental rights groups say they are outraged the California Senate has passed a bill that will favor “gender-affirming” parents in child custody disputes.
The state senate voted 30–9 in favor of Assembly Bill 957, along party lines Sept. 6 with Democrats supporting it and Republicans opposed. Sen. Melissa Hurtado (D-Tulare) abstained.
The Assembly passed the bill in late March on a 51–13 vote, with 16 members not voting.
California Gov. Gavin Newsom, a Democrat, now has until Oct. 15 to either sign the bill into law or veto it.
The bill would require courts to consider parents who support their child’s transgender identity as acting in the best interests of the child.
Jennifer Kennedy, a civil rights attorney based in Pasadena and spokeswoman for parental rights group Our Duty, which opposes the bill, told The Epoch Times Sept. 8 that if the governor signs the legislation into law, it will “forever change” the landscape of family law in the state.
The legislation, she said, would “make it impossible for anyone to reject the notion of gender transition” because it would compel family court judges to favor gender-affirming parents as being in the best interests of the “health, safety and welfare” of a child, per the state’s family code.
“It evolved in a series of several amendments to finally equate affirmation of gender transition as part of a child’s ‘health, safety and welfare,’ and … those are magic words in California law,” she said. “The affirming parent will always be given the benefit of the doubt. They will always be favored in custody and visitation, so it’s completely unconstitutional,” Ms. Kennedy said.
State lawmakers who voted for the bill are “ignoring the will of the people” and are supporting legislation that will violate parental rights and remove the discretion of judges to consider the facts involved in child custody disputes on a case-by-case basis.
The bill means that any parent who is fighting for custody of a child will have no choice but to affirm any kind of transition at any age, of any gender identity, she said.
“Newsom needs to veto it because if he doesn’t, he is aligning with breaking up families. He’s aligning against parents and also judicial discretion. It’s the state control of our judges,” she said. “Why would Newsom attack families already in crisis? He needs to read the room and veto AB 957.”
Assemblywoman Lori Wilson (D-Suisun City), who introduced the legislation co-sponsored with Sen. Scott Wiener (D-San Francisco) in February, said at an Assembly Judiciary Committee hearing in March that social support from friends and family is strongly associated with positive mental development, physical health, and overall well-being of transgender, gender non-conforming, and intersex children.
“As a mother of a trans youth, I experienced this firsthand in my own home,” she said. “And we provided social support, not only from our family, but from our friends.”
California State Assemblywoman Lori Wilson speaks to the state Assembly Judiciary Committee in Sacramento, Calif., on March 21, 2023. (California State Assembly/Screenshot via The Epoch Times)

California State Assemblywoman Lori Wilson speaks to the state Assembly Judiciary Committee in Sacramento, Calif., on March 21, 2023. (California State Assembly/Screenshot via The Epoch Times)

But, Assemblyman Bill Essayli (R-Riverside) questioned the logic behind legislation that would impose a “blanket policy” on family court judges to side with “gender-affirming” parents.
Mr. Essayli voted against the bill, saying it would exclude the voices of non-consenting parents and infringe on parental rights.
“Why do we assume that affirming a 7-year-old’s ... decision is always in the best interest of the child?” he asked the committee.
California State Assemblyman Bill Essayli, R-Riverside, speaks at the California State Capitol building in Sacramento, Calif., on Aug. 28, 2023. (John Fredricks/The Epoch Times)

California State Assemblyman Bill Essayli, R-Riverside, speaks at the California State Capitol building in Sacramento, Calif., on Aug. 28, 2023. (John Fredricks/The Epoch Times)

Kathie Moehlig, founder and executive director of TransFamily Support Services based in San Diego, supported the bill, saying her organization has helped more than 3,500 transgender youth through their “gender journey” and helped their families navigate their way through the family court system.
The proposed legislation, she said, “is simply adding gender affirmation to the current list of factors to be considered for custody and visitations” and would codify into law that affirming a child’s gender is in their best interest.
Ted Hudacko, a divorced father whose ex-wife supported the gender transition of one of their two sons, told the committee he lost custody of the boy because he hesitated to socially and medically transition him.
“My older son decided that he was a woman, after my ex-wife’s sister was brutally stabbed by her husband. He no longer wanted to be a man,” he said. “My son is now 18 and likely unable to father a child. Since the root cause of his trans identity was never explored, his comorbid mental health issues continue unabated.”
When his son was 17, he was prescribed estrogen and puberty blockers, including one that required a surgical implant, he told The Epoch Times.
Ted Hudacko, who lost custody of one of his sons due to questioning his transgender identity, speaks at a hearing in Sacramento, Calif., on June 21, 2022. (California State Assembly/Screenshot via The Epoch Times)

Ted Hudacko, who lost custody of one of his sons due to questioning his transgender identity, speaks at a hearing in Sacramento, Calif., on June 21, 2022. (California State Assembly/Screenshot via The Epoch Times)

Mr. Hudacko said he has been depicted as “a villain” and “an unfit parent” because he wanted to get his son “the proper mental health care he needed” before rushing into transgender medical interventions when his son was still a minor.
Several parental rights groups, including Our Duty, the California Family Council, Moms for Liberty, and hundreds of parents opposed the bill at legislative hearings, while the American Civil Liberties Union, Equality California, and other LGBT groups supported it.
In June, Sen. Scott Wilk (R-Santa Clarita) suggested at a packed Senate Judiciary Committee hearing on the bill that fighting to preserve parental rights in California is a lost cause, and he advised parents to leave the state if they know what’s best for their children and families.
“If you love your children, you need to flee California,” he said.
California State Sen. Scott Wilk, R-Santa Clarita, speaks at a hearing in Sacramento, Calif., on June 13, 2023. (California State Senate Judiciary Committee/Screenshot via The Epoch Times)

California State Sen. Scott Wilk, R-Santa Clarita, speaks at a hearing in Sacramento, Calif., on June 13, 2023. (California State Senate Judiciary Committee/Screenshot via The Epoch Times)

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Brad Jones

Brad Jones

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Brad Jones is an award-winning journalist based in Southern California.

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