Calif. Bill Could Strip Custody from Parents Who Do Not Affirm Their Child’s Gender Identity
On September 8, the California State Assembly passed a bill that requires judges presiding over child custody cases to consider a parent’s willingness to support their child’s chosen gender identity in deciding if that parent should be granted custody. The bill received swift condemnation from a wide swath of Americans, including parental rights advocates, detransitioners, lawmakers, and public figures.
California Bill AB 957 added a new “comprehensive factor” under “best interests of the child” in the state’s Family Code, which states, “a parent’s affirmation of the child’s gender identity or gender expression.” The bill passed the state Senate without a single Republican vote. It now moves to Governor Gavin Newsom’s (D) desk, who is expected to sign the measure into law.
California State Rep. Lori Wilson (D), who wrote the bill, tried to reassure sceptics of the legislation that it would not threaten parental rights. “No one is out to get your kids,” she said earlier this year. “No one is out to force your kids to be anything they shouldn’t be. It’s about really protecting children who are caught up in the family court system from a parent that is antagonistic or non-affirming.”
But parents in the Golden State who did not affirm their child’s chosen gender identity have already lost custody of their children. In 2019, Ted Hudacko lost custody of his 15-year-old son after his wife left him and took their transgender-identifying son with her. The judge in the divorce case, who never disclosed that she herself was the supportive mother of a transgender-identifying child, later granted full custody to Hudacko’s former wife. In 2021, a $209,820.34 charge appeared on Hudacko’s health insurance statement for a puberty-blocking implant that was inserted into his son’s arm without Hudacko’s permission.
Another California mother, Erica Friday, told CBS News in June that government authorities showed up at her door for not affirming her daughter’s chosen male identity. “It happened to me when I refused to call my daughter by a male name and use male pronouns. CPS [Child Protective Services] showed up at my doorstep. The police followed.”
The trend is occurring in other states as well. One Chicago mother, Jeannette Cooper, lost custody of her then 12-year-old daughter after the girl announced that she was a boy in 2019 at her father’s house, unbeknownst to Cooper. The father later claimed in court that Cooper’s daughter was “no longer mentally or emotionally safe” while in her mother’s care. “The thing that I am clearly not complying with is this concept that ‘good parenting’ means that you affirm a child’s idea that there is something wrong with them,” Cooper said. “I’m not willing to do that.”
Chloe Cole, a California resident who underwent gender transition procedures at 15 and now advocates for those who choose to detransition from a transgender lifestyle, decried the bill as dangerous for the health of children. “This issue is wildly unpopular yet the Cali Gov pushes forward with more and more radical policies,” she wrote on social media last week. “@ProtectKidsCA is trying to introduce ballot measures that will stop the sterilization of kids in California.”
Fellow Californian Elon Musk, a billionaire technology entrepreneur, also criticized the bill as “a wolf in sheep’s clothing.” He went on to write, “What it would actually mean is that if you disagree with the other parent about sterilizing your child, you lose custody. Utter madness!”
During a California Senate Judiciary Committee hearing in June, state Senator Scott Wilk (R) warned families with children to leave the state in the wake of bills like AB 957 that threaten parental rights.
“I am now in year 11 in the state legislature, and all the time we’re proposing policies to protect children,” he noted. “Well, after 11 years, I’ve come to the conclusion that we need to start protecting parents. … I’ve witnessed a full-frontal assault on charter schools, taking away parent’s choice and how their children are going to be educated, to the detriment particularly of children of color. In recent years, we have put government bureaucrats between parents, children, and doctors when it comes to medical care — and now we have this where if a parent does not support the ideology of the government, [children] are going to be taken away from the home.”
“If you love your children, you need to flee California,” Wilk underscored. “It just breaks my heart. I was born and raised in this state. I love this state. I’m not going to stay in this state, because it’s just too oppressive. I believe in freedom, and so I’m going to move to America when I leave the legislature.”
Dan Hart is senior editor at The Washington Stand.