Gov. Newsom vetoes bill prioritizing transgender ‘affirmation’ in child custody battles
Veto is a win for California Catholic Conference
By Valerie Schmalz
Governor Gavin Newsom has vetoed legislation that would have “put a thumb on the scale” for parents supporting transgender “affirmation” in custody battles.
The California Catholic Conference and the Archdiocese of San Francisco strongly opposed AB 957, passed by the California Legislature in the last days of the legislative session. The California bishops’ policy arm had sent a new Action Alert asking voters to urge Gov. Newsom to veto the bill, following its final passage Sept. 8.
Gov. Newsom however did sign several bills that continue to push transgenderism, including AB 223 which impinges on a parent’s right to know as it requires any petition for a change of gender and sex identifier by a minor to be kept confidential by the court.
In his Sept. 22 veto message for AB 957, the governor echoed the California Catholic Conference’s argument that the courts are already required to consider the child’s overall well-being, including the parent’s affirmation of the child’s gender identity, and 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.”
Newsom said the precedent of intervention could have unintended consequences. “Other-minded elected officials, in California and other states, could very well use this strategy to diminish the civil rights of vulnerable communities,” Newsom said.
“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 in his message.
The California Catholic Conference noted that there was bipartisan confusion about whether “gender affirmation” meant parental support for medical intervention for gender transition during the June Senate Judiciary Committee Hearing.
The Assembly initially passed the bill 51-13 with 16 abstentions in March but more strongly approved the final version of the bill Sept. 8, 61-16 with three abstentions. The Senate approved the bill 30-9, with one abstention Sept. 6.
In its Action Alert, the California Catholic Conference said, “A parent whom the court acknowledges to be a loving, protective parent – who upholds the health, safety, and welfare of a child – and who has a conscientious conflict with gender transition or who struggles with their child’s transition should not lose custody or parenting time as a result. This bill places a thumb on the scale for custody against loving, protective parents who must allow their child to transition, even if there is not enough evidence to show that it is really in the best interests of the child.”
Gov. Newsom’s veto was criticized by LGBTQ groups. Equality California, the state’s largest lobbying group for LGBTQ issues, said in a press release, it was “We are disappointed and disheartened by Governor Newsom’s decision to veto AB 957.”
State lawmakers who represent voters in the Archdiocese of San Francisco uniformly voted for AB 957.
The legislation was introduced by Assembly Member Lori Wilson, with principal co-author State Sen. Scott Wiener, D-San Francisco. In addition, these lawmakers representing the voters in the Archdiocese of San Francisco voted for AB 957: State Sen. Mike McGuire, D-Marin County; State Sen. Josh Becker, D-San Rafael; Assembly Member Marc Berman, D-Menlo Park; Assembly Member Matt Haney, D-San Francisco; Assembly Member Phil Ting, D- SF and-Northern San Mateo; Assembly Member Damon Connolly, D-Marin County; Assembly Member Diane Papan, D-San Mateo.
Valerie Schmalz is the director of the Office of Human Life & Dignity.