Newsom Vetoes California Bill Requiring Judges to Favor ‘Gender-Affirming’ Parents in Child Custody Disputes

Newsom Vetoes California Bill Requiring Judges to Favor ‘Gender-Affirming’ Parents in Child Custody Disputes

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

Sophie Li
Sophie Li


Updated: 9/24/2023


California Gov. Gavin Newsom vetoed Sept. 22 a bill that would require judges to favor “gender-affirming” parents in child custody disputes.
Assembly Bill 957, introduced by Assemblywoman Lori Wilson (D-Suisun City), proposes that judges must take into account parents who affirm their child’s transgender identity as acting to provide “the health, safety, and welfare of the child,” the bill reads.
The bill cleared the state Legislature earlier this month and was presented to the governor for approval on Sept. 14.
However, Mr. Newsom announced in a veto statement released on Friday evening that he cannot endorse the legislation even though he appreciated the motivation behind it and shared a similar passion regarding “advancing the rights of transgender Californians.”
“That said, I urge caution when the Executive and Legislative branches of state government attempt to dictate—in prescriptive terms that single out one characteristic—legal standards for the Judicial branch to apply,” he wrote. “Other-minded elected officials, in California and other states, could very well use this strategy to diminish the civil rights of vulnerable communities.”
Mr. Newsom added that judges are still required to consider a child’s well-being concerning their gender identity when adjudicating child custody disputes, regardless of the bill’s status.
“Moreover, a court, under existing law, is required to consider a child’s health, safety, and welfare when determining the best interests of a child in these proceedings, including the parent’s affirmation of the child’s gender identity,” he said.
Following the veto, Ms. Wilson, the bill’s author, shared her disappointment with the governor’s decision.
“I am extremely disappointed. I know the Governor’s record. He’s been a champion for the LGBTQ+ community for years and even before it was popular to do so,” she wrote in a statement posted on X, formerly Twitter. “However, on this point, the governor and I disagree on the best way to protect [Transgender, Gender-Diverse and Intersex] kids.”
She continued saying that her intent with the bill was to “give [these kids] a voice, particularly in the family court system where non-affirming parents could have a detrimental impact on the mental health and well-being of a child.”
On the other hand, groups opposing the bill applauded Mr. Newsom’s decision.
“Our team had the opportunity to meet with the Governor’s office and discuss the compounding effects of various bills,” according to a statement from Protection of the Educational Rights of Kids, a Los Angeles-based nonprofit. “We are thrilled that the concerns were heard, and countless children will still be protected under the health, welfare, and safety codes.”
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 earlier this month the bill would prevent judges from exercising discretion in considering the facts involved in child custody disputes on a case-by-case basis.
“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.
The legislation, she said, would “make it impossible for anyone to reject the notion of gender transition” because family court judges would be forced to always consider gender-affirming parents as more being in the best interests of a child’s well-being.
“It ... equate[s] affirmation of gender transition as part of a child’s ‘health, safety and welfare,’ and ... those are magic words in California law,” Ms. Kennedy 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.”
Brad Jones contributed to this report.
Sophie Li
Sophie Li

Sophie Li is a Southern California-based reporter covering local daily news, state policies, and breaking news for The Epoch Times. Besides writing, she is also passionate about reading, photography, and tennis.

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