Parental rights groups say they are outraged the California Senate has passed a bill that will favor “gender-affirming” parents in child custody disputes.
The Assembly passed the bill in late March on a 51–13 vote, with 16 members not voting.
California Gov. Gavin Newsom, a Democrat, now has until Oct. 15 to either sign the bill into law or veto it.
The bill would require courts to consider parents who support their child's transgender identity as acting in the best interests of the child.
The legislation, she said, would “make it impossible for anyone to reject the notion of gender transition” because it would compel family court judges to favor gender-affirming parents as being in the best interests of the “health, safety and welfare” of a child, per the state’s family code.
“It evolved in a series of several amendments to finally equate affirmation of gender transition as part of a child’s ‘health, safety and welfare,’ and … those are magic words in California law,” she said. “The affirming parent will always be given the benefit of the doubt. They will always be favored in custody and visitation, so it’s completely unconstitutional,” Ms. Kennedy said.
State lawmakers who voted for the bill are “ignoring the will of the people” and are supporting legislation that will violate parental rights and remove the discretion of judges to consider the facts involved in child custody disputes on a case-by-case basis.
The bill means that any parent who is fighting for custody of a child will have no choice but to affirm any kind of transition at any age, of any gender identity, she said.
“Newsom needs to veto it because if he doesn’t, he is aligning with breaking up families. He’s aligning against parents and also judicial discretion. It’s the state control of our judges,” she said. “Why would Newsom attack families already in crisis? He needs to read the room and veto AB 957.”
“As a mother of a trans youth, I experienced this firsthand in my own home,” she said. “And we provided social support, not only from our family, but from our friends.”
But, Assemblyman Bill Essayli (R-Riverside) questioned the logic behind legislation that would impose a “blanket policy” on family court judges to side with “gender-affirming” parents.
Mr. Essayli voted against the bill, saying it would exclude the voices of non-consenting parents and infringe on parental rights.
“Why do we assume that affirming a 7-year-old’s ... decision is always in the best interest of the child?” he asked the committee.
Kathie Moehlig, founder and executive director of TransFamily Support Services based in San Diego, supported the bill, saying her organization has helped more than 3,500 transgender youth through their “gender journey” and helped their families navigate their way through the family court system.
The proposed legislation, she said, “is simply adding gender affirmation to the current list of factors to be considered for custody and visitations” and would codify into law that affirming a child’s gender is in their best interest.
Ted Hudacko, a divorced father whose ex-wife supported the gender transition of one of their two sons, told the committee he lost custody of the boy because he hesitated to socially and medically transition him.
“My older son decided that he was a woman, after my ex-wife’s sister was brutally stabbed by her husband. He no longer wanted to be a man,” he said. “My son is now 18 and likely unable to father a child. Since the root cause of his trans identity was never explored, his comorbid mental health issues continue unabated.”
When his son was 17, he was prescribed estrogen and puberty blockers, including one that required a surgical implant, he told The Epoch Times.
Mr. Hudacko said he has been depicted as “a villain” and “an unfit parent” because he wanted to get his son “the proper mental health care he needed” before rushing into transgender medical interventions when his son was still a minor.
In June, Sen. Scott Wilk (R-Santa Clarita) suggested at a packed Senate Judiciary Committee hearing on the bill that fighting to preserve parental rights in California is a lost cause, and he advised parents to leave the state if they know what’s best for their children and families.