Newsom Vetoes Bill That Would Make Acceptance of Gender Identity a Factor in Custody Court

About 1,000 Californians rallied at the state capitol in August to protest the legislation and other bills that they feared would take away parental rights.

Governor Gavin Newsom of California.
Governor Gavin Newsom of California. (photo: Amir Aziz / Shutterstock)

In a break with his party’s legislators, California Gov. Gavin Newsom vetoed a bill that would have penalized a parent’s custodial claims if he or she does not affirm a child’s self-professed transgender identity.

The Democratic governor vetoed the legislation on Sept. 22 despite the bill passing the state’s lower legislative chamber 61-16 and upper chamber 30-9. It had overwhelming support from Democratic lawmakers but was opposed by Republican legislators.

Per the proposed legislation, courts would have been required to consider “a parent’s affirmation of the child’s gender identity or gender expression” when determining the “health, safety, and welfare of the child.” The court would need to determine this affirmation through “a range of actions,” which would be “unique for each child” but must “promote the child’s overall health and well-being.” 

A parent’s rejection of a child’s self-asserted transgender identity would not disqualify a parent from maintaining custody on its own, under the proposal. However, it would be considered in conjunction with other criteria measuring the child’s “health, safety, and welfare.”

In his veto of the legislation, Newsom said courts are already required to consider a child’s health, safety, and welfare, which he claimed includes “the parent’s affirmation of the child’s gender identity.” The governor urged 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 “other-minded elected officials … could very well use this strategy to diminish the civil rights of vulnerable communities.” Despite his veto, the governor added that he appreciates “the passion and values that led the author to introduce this bill” and said he shared “a deep commitment to advancing the rights of transgender Californians, an effort that has guided my decisions through many decades in public office.”

Sophia Lorey, the outreach coordinator for the California Family Council, encouraged people to “celebrate this victory!” in a post on X, formerly known as Twitter. However, she noted that a veto override is still on the table. 

“The legislators can override this veto,” Lorey said. “All they [need] is [two-thirds] of each house to do so.”

More than two-thirds of lawmakers in both chambers voted for the legislation. Lawmakers reconvene on Jan. 3, 2024, and have 60 days to override the veto.

About 1,000 Californians rallied at the state capitol in August to protest the legislation and other bills that they feared would take away parental rights. 

One of those bills would allow a minor aged 12 or older to receive transgender medical services without parental consent if a mental health professional “determines that the [parental] involvement would be inappropriate” after consulting with the child. It would also allow a mental health professional to place a minor in a residential shelter if he or she determines the minor is “mature enough to participate intelligently in the outpatient services or residential shelter services.”

This legislation passed both chambers of the California Legislature and was sent to Newsom, but the governor has not yet taken action on the bill.