California Dems Could Remove Visitation Rights for 'Non-Affirming' Parents

Bill would force custody judges to consider 'gender affirmation' as part of child's health, safety, and welfare

(Jon Cherry/Getty Images)
September 5, 2023

California Democrats are threatening the visitation rights of divorced or separated parents who don’t "affirm" their gender-confused child’s identity under a last-minute change to a proposal meant to protect children from abusers.

The Democrats have put forward two bills that would change California family law to make "gender affirmation" part of a child's health, safety, and welfare, trying to pass them side-by-side. The first, which was introduced earlier this year, would allow judges to remove custody from "non-affirming" parents. The second would force custody judges deciding visitation rights to consider "a parent's affirmation of the child's gender identity or gender expression," according to language added to the bill last week that will take effect if the first proposal passes.

Neither bill defines what "affirmation" means, leaving it to judges to decide if it includes irreversible puberty blockers, cross-sex hormones, and genital surgeries. Nor does it specify what age a child should be before his or her preferred identity should be unquestioningly "affirmed."

Both bills are up for final approval by the state senate and assembly by Sept. 14. It's unclear what the final result will be, but Democrats have so far easily advanced the idea of changing family law to promote "gender affirmation" in the face of widespread public opposition.

The revamped parental visitation bill puts "non-affirming" parents in the same league as abusers—and suggests that California Democrats aren’t retreating from their attack on parents who may not agree with transitioning their minor children to a different sex or identity. The original proposal was intended only to prevent the harm or murder of children by a parent already flagged as a potential danger, introduced as a response to the 2022 murder of three girls by their father during a supervised visit in California, according to its legislative analysis.

A representative for the bill's author, Sen. Anna Caballero (D.), did not return a request for comment.

When the initial proposal was introduced to order custody judges to favor "affirming" parents during divorce or separation disputes, parental rights advocates and attorneys argued that such a provision could make parents vulnerable to claims of abuse if they don’t go along with their child’s chosen identity. California parents are already losing custody of their gender-confused children.

"In the unfortunate event that parents are negotiating visitation rights for their children in a custody dispute, it makes sense for a judge to consider if the children are in legitimate danger," said Lance Christensen, vice president of education policy and government affairs for the California Policy Center. "However, classifying a parent who does not affirm a child's gender dysphoria should not be in the same category as an abuser."

At a hearing for that measure in June, bill co-author Sen. Scott Wiener (D.) blamed the public outcry on what he called "a pretty massive misinformation campaign about this bill by the right-wing media."