Newsom vetoes trans youth empowerment act bill

  • by Cynthia Laird, News Editor
  • Friday September 22, 2023
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Governor Gavin Newsom has vetoed a bill that would have allowed courts to consider the needs of trans youth during custody proceedings. Photo: Courtesy Governor's office
Governor Gavin Newsom has vetoed a bill that would have allowed courts to consider the needs of trans youth during custody proceedings. Photo: Courtesy Governor's office

In his first veto of an LGBTQ-related bill this legislative session, Governor Gavin Newsom Friday night rejected a proposal that would have empowered trans and gender-nonconforming youth and require courts to consider a child's gender identity when making custody decisions.

Newsom vetoed Assembly Bill 957 by Assemblymember Lori D. Wilson (D-Suisun City), stating that it went too far.

AB 957, dubbed the TGI (Transgender, Gender-Diverse, and Intersex) Youth Empowerment Act, would have allowed the courts to consider the needs of trans youth during custody proceedings. The bill would have required 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, according to a previous news release from Wilson's office.

Wilson has an adult trans child.

"I appreciate the passion and values that led the author to introduce this bill," Newsom stated in his veto message. "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.

"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," Newsom continued. "Other-minded elected officials, in California and other states, could very well use this strategy to diminish the civil rights of vulnerable communities.

"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," Newsom concluded.

Wilson said she was "extremely disappointed" in a statement the Bay Area Reporter received late Friday.

"I know the governor's record. He been a champion for the LGBTQ+ community for years and even before it was popular to do so," Wilson stated. "However, on this point, the Governor and I disagree on the best way to protect TGI kids.

"I've been disheartened over the last few years as I watched the rising hate and heard the vitriol toward the trans community. My intent with this bill was to give them a voice, particularly in the family court system where a non-affirming parent could have a detrimental impact on the mental health and well-being of a child," Wilson added.

Wilson stated that she will continue fighting for trans youth.

"Whether the roadblock comes from the opposition or even a supporter, it only hardens my resolve," she stated. "I'm far from done, this fight is personal! Not just for my family, but to all the trans kids that deserve a brighter and safer future."

In March, when Wilson was working to advance the bill, she pointed out that TGI youth are at risk for mental health challenges.

"As the mother of a trans child, it is jarring to know that TGI youth are at a higher risk of depression, mental health crises, self-harm and suicide than their cisgender peers," Wilson stated in the release on her Assembly website.

"Family courts are required to consider a variety of factors when determining the best interest of the child for the purposes of custody and visitation, including the health, safety and welfare of the child, any history of abuse, and history of substance abuse," Wilson added. "The TGI Youth Empowerment Act provides California the opportunity to take one step closer to building a safer, more dignified, and equitable world for TGI youth and their families."

Although he vetoed Wilson's bill, Newsom has been out front this year in pushing back against a rollback of LGBTQ progress in the state's public schools, as the B.A.R. has reported. His threatening a major fine against a Riverside County school district led to its elected board's reversing course on banning instructional materials that covered the late gay San Francisco supervisor Harvey Milk.

There are 15 other LGBTQ-related bills Newsom has yet to consider by the October 14 deadline for him to sign or veto legislation. He previously signed a bill by state Senate President pro Tem Toni Atkins (D-San Diego) that repealed the state's ban on publicly funded travel to states with anti-LGBTQ laws, as the B.A.R. reported.

Updated, 9/24/23: This article has been updated with a statement from Assemblymember Wilson.

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