The bill, known as A.B. 957, has already passed the State Assembly and would require judges adjudicating such disputes over transgender-identifying children to favor the parent who "affirms" the child's preferred identity. The bill's latest version explicitly defines "the health, safety, and welfare" of a child to include "a parent's affirmation of the child's gender identity."
This change has raised concerns among opponents who worry that non-affirmation could be treated as abuse. Erin Friday, a San Francisco attorney and co-lead of the parent coalition Our Duty, said, "When you say that gender affirmation is in the child's best interest for health, safety, and welfare, it takes nothing to say [non-affirmation] is now abuse—because you're not taking care of the health, safety, and welfare if you're not affirming them."
A.B. 957 is the latest in a series of legislation to enshrine left-wing gender ideology in California law. State senator Scott Wiener (D.), who coauthored A.B. 957 with Assemblywoman Lori Wilson (D.), is simultaneously advancing a separate bill that would require foster parents to promise to "affirm" trans-identifying children. In 2022, he introduced a first-in-the-nation law enshrining California as a "haven" where out-of-state minors can obtain sex changes without their parent's consent. Meanwhile, Texas Gov. Greg Abbott (R.) declared last year that helping kids get sex changes is child abuse.
Wilson's spokesman, Taylor Woolfork, disputed that the latest revision changed much about the bill and noted that A.B. 957 only relates to family law, not criminal law. "It's not saying [affirmation] is the most important factor or determining factor," Woolfork said. "It's one of many factors the judge should consider while working out a custody agreement." Wiener's office did not respond to a request for comment.
A.B. 957 quickly cleared the Assembly in late March with the support of 51 Democrats, although 16 mostly Democratic lawmakers refrained from voting. The most recent changes to the bill were made public on Tuesday before the bill's first Senate committee hearing next week. While the updated language does not define affirmation, it tells judges to consider anything less by parents on par with their history of drug and alcohol use, physical abuse, or neglect of a child. The bill makes no distinctions regarding a child's age, how long a child has identified as transgender, or affirmation of social transition versus medical sex-change treatments.
Critics, who were already worried that A.B. 957 would wipe out custody or visitation rights of parents who don't conform to gender ideology, expressed alarm over the language change and how it could lead to abuse claims. "It's not a giant leap–it's a tiny step to get there," said Friday. "We know exactly where they are going with it. I didn't think the bill could get worse, but it got worse."