California Democratic Gov. Gavin Newsom vetoed a bill that would have directed judges to consider a parent’s acceptance of their child’s gender identity in custody disputes, arguing that it infringed on the separation of powers.
In a letter accompanying his veto of Assembly Bill 957, sponsored by Assemblywoman Lori Wilson (D-Suisun City), Newsom said that while he appreciated the “passion and values” that led Wilson to propose the bill, he could not sign the bill.
“I share a deep commitment to advancing the rights of transgender Californians, an effort that has guided my decisions through many decades in public office,” Newsom said in the statement.
“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. Other-minded elected officials, in California and other states, could very well use this strategy to diminish the civil rights of vulnerable communities.”
Newsom added that courts are already required to consider a child’s health, safety, and welfare when determining the best interests of a child, including whether a parent affirms their child’s gender identity.
The California Legislative LGBTQ Caucus said in a statement that Newsom’s veto was a “missed opportunity to remind the nation that California is a safe haven for transgender and nonbinary children.”
But critics of the bill hailed the veto, arguing that requiring affirmation would essentially force trans-identifying children to pursue gender-affirming treatments, such as hormone therapy or gender confirmation surgery that they might later grow to regret.
While the bill did not require parents to consent to such procedures, opponents had feared that opposition to pursuing medical procedures would be deemed as non-affirmation and lead courts to rule against allowing qualified and loving parents to retain custody of their children.
Despite criticism from some pro-transgender advocates for the veto of Wilson’s bill, Newsom signed several other pro-LGBTQ pieces of legislation on Saturday, according to the Sacramento Bee.
Those bills include measures setting deadlines for teachers and school staff to undergo LGBTQ cultural competency training, requiring public schools to have at least one unisex restroom, requiring the state to create a task force to identify LGBTQ students’ needs and implement policies to address those, and making minors’ court petitions for sex and gender-marker changes confidential.
“California is proud to have some of the most robust laws in the nation when it comes to protecting and supporting our LGBTQ+ community, and we’re committed to the ongoing work to create safer, more inclusive spaces for all Californians,” Newsom said in a statement. “These measures will help protect vulnerable youth, promote acceptance, and create more supportive environments in our schools and communities.”
Newsom followed that slew of bills with an additional bill signing on Monday, when he approved a measure to prohibit “book bans” and censorship of instructional materials in schools.
Under the bill, sponsored by Assemblymember Dr. Corey Jackson (D-Moreno Valley), the State Superintendent of Public Instruction has the authority to buy textbooks for students in a school district, recoup costs, and fine local school districts if school board members refuse to provide material aligning with state learning standards.
The book ban bill, which was inspired by a decision by the Temecula Valley Unified School District to reject an elementary school studies course over objections to the inclusion of gay rights icon Harvey Milk in supplemental materials, also prohibits local school boards from banning materials or library books for providing “inclusive and diverse perspectives,” such as those containing LGBTQ-related content or racially-based content.
“From Temecula to Tallahassee, fringe ideologues across the country are attempting to whitewash history and ban books from schools,” Newsom said in a statement. “With this new law, we’re cementing California’s role as the true freedom state: a place where families — not political fanatics — have the freedom to decide what’s right for them.”
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