California Courts To Consider ‘Gender Affirmation’ In Custody Decisions

California Democrats have passed legislation with potential long-term ramifications for families embroiled in child custody disputes. The bill directs state judges to consider “gender affirmation” when ruling on parental custody and visitation rights. Critics argue that the move erodes parental authority and fosters unnecessary division within families, further complicating emotionally charged legal battles.

The bill, approved by the Assembly on a 57-16 vote, instructs judges to give preference to parents who “affirm” their children’s gender identities. Though advocates insist this is simply a safeguard to protect children, opponents see it as a dangerous precedent that puts ideological conformity above the well-being of families.

“The floodgates are open,” said Erin Friday, a San Francisco attorney and co-lead of Our Duty, a coalition of parents of gender-confused children. “For them to say this is limited to custody is just a lie.”

The ambiguity of the term “affirmation” adds to the controversy. Without a clear definition, the onus falls on judges to decide what constitutes affirmation, including whether it involves medical transition — another contentious issue.

Ted Hudacko, a Bay Area father who lost custody of his son for refusing to support his medical transition, labeled the proposals as a source of “terrible misery” for families. Hudacko’s concern points to a broader issue: The potential for these bills to prioritize ideological alignment over the substantive welfare of children.

State Assemblyman Bill Essayli (R) argued that the California judicial system already allows judges to consider such factors and criticized the bill for not defining what “affirmation” entails. “This trans conversation is very complicated and delicate,” he noted.

As commentators across X, formerly known as Twitter, have pointed out, the bill jeopardizes the rights of parents who might question or oppose their child’s wish to transition. Elon Musk described the legislation as “utter madness.” At the same time, Chloe Cole, a gender de-transitioner, criticized the state government for pushing “more and more radical policies.”

To make matters more complex, the legislation intersects with another bill, which the Senate passed 40-0, directing judges to consider parents’ affirmation of their child’s identity when deciding visitation rights. While the original intent was to protect children from dangerous parents or guardians, the legislation has become a flashpoint in the cultural divide over gender identity.

State Assemblymember Lori Wilson (D), who sponsored the bill and has a transgender child, argued that it’s about protecting the health and well-being of trans kids. “This does not put a thumb on the scale of one parent,” she said. However, many conservatives see this as a disproportionate weight given to a singular yet complex aspect of a child’s life at the potential cost of family unity.

These bills now head to Gov. Gavin Newsom (D), who has until October 14 to sign or veto them.