(The Center Square) – The California Senate appears ready to consider legislation next week that makes refusal to affirm a child’s gender a matter of concern in a custody dispute.
AB 957, The TGI (Transgender, Gender-Diverse, and Intersex) Youth Empowerment Act, was first introduced by Assembly Member Lori Wilson, D-Suisun City, in March.
The bill “empowers parents who support their TGI children by clarifying once and for all that affirming a child’s gender identity is in the best interest of the child, allowing courts to consider a parent’s affirmation of their child’s gender identity when making decisions about visitation and custody. The bill will also require courts to strongly consider that affirming a child’s gender identity is in the best interest of the child when one parent does not consent to a minor’s legal name change to conform with the minor’s gender identity. AB 957 will provide affirming parents the support they need when encountering civil procedures in court that pertain to affirming and uplifting the lives of their TGI children,” a release by Wilson’s office stated.
The bill has had several provisions amended in consultation with committee members to remove clauses that cover if non-conforming parent objects to name changes, as well as other name change stipulations with regard to a minor to affirm gender identity.
“The bill was originally introduced to amend both Family Code 3011 and the Code of Civil Procedure …The amendments taken do not substantially differ from its previous version. Our bill was always amending section 3011 of the family code,” Wilson stated at the June 13 Senate Judiciary Committee hearing on the bill.
Republicans do not trust the intention of the Democratic majority and hint that this bill may just be the beginning of drastic changes to family law and that perhaps the removed clauses, some of which were hostile to parents who did not affirm the child’s preferred gender, would make their way back in other bills.
Sen. Scott Wilk, R-Santa Clarita, said, “After eleven years, I’ve come to the conclusion we need to start protecting parents.”
Having described how legislation has crawled into aspects of parenting regarding education and medical care, he said, “Now we have this, where if the parent does not support the ideology of the government, they (the children) will be taken away from the home.
“Today, it only involves divorce proceedings …but I can assure you, it’s not going to end with divorce proceedings. In the past..when I’ve seen parental rights atrophied, I’ve encouraged people to keep fighting. I’ve changed my mind on that. If you love your children, you need to flee California! You need to flee.”
His statements roused a round of applause from those in attendance opposing the bill.
Existing law governs the determination of child custody and visitation in contested proceedings and requires the court, for purposes of deciding custody, to determine the best interests of the child based on certain factors, including, among other things, the health, safety, and welfare of the child.
The bill would require the law to “include a parent’s affirmation of the child’s gender identity as part of the health, safety, and welfare of the child.”
Despite assurances from Wilson that the bill is not referencing the criminal code and would not be used as a means to charge a parent as abusive, Erin Friday, leader of Our Duty, noted that the bill is the first of its kind to codify that a parent who does not affirm a child’s gender identity, as abusive.
“It matters not the age of the child, the absurdity of the identity adopted..mental health issues or persistence. AB 957 unambiguously states that the ‘health, safety and welfare’ of the child includes a parent’s affirmation of a child’s gender identity. If it passes, it would be child abuse if one does not affirm a child’s gender identity, not just in custody cases. The triad of words ‘health, safety and welfare’ will be used by CPS, judges and police to take children away from parents like me who knew better than to concretize their child’s gender identity.”
Ms. Friday is also the parent of “a girl who used to believe she was a boy.”
She went on to give an example where the courts last year had already removed a child from his parents for “health, safety and welfare” reasons under which the new bill would include gender affirmation.
Sen. Scott Wiener, D-San Francisco, said, “We need to remember that all the arguments that we hear against so many parts of this bill and against acknowledging the existence of trans kids, those have all been made against gay and lesbian kids, that you can change them, that it’s not real, that it’s a phase, that they’re confused, that it’s a mental health problem. Let’s not pretend…that the attacks on and the attempts to erase trans kids…that it’s not also an attack on gay and lesbian kids. It absolutely is.”
The bill has been ordered to a third reading and could be heard Monday.