California Gov. Gavin Newsom has signed a bill into law that he says protects transgender-identifying children but that critics say will allow the state to take custody of out-of-state minors whose parents oppose transgender treatments.
At issue is S.B. 107, which Newsom and supporters say would make California a so-called “refuge” for children whose states restrict transgender treatments or whose parents oppose such treatments. At least four states have passed laws that ban puberty blockers, hormones and/or sex-change surgery involving children.
Newsom signed the bill on Thursday, saying it “will ensure these kids and their families can seek and obtain the medical and mental health care they need.”
But opponents of the new law, including Alliance Defending Freedom and the California Family Council, point to language in the text that allows state courts to take custody of children who come from other states.
“A court of this state has temporary emergency jurisdiction if the child is present in this state and the child has been abandoned, or it is necessary in an emergency to protect the child because the child … has been unable to obtain gender-affirming health care or gender-affirming mental health care,” the text of the new law says.
The nonpartisan legislative counsel summary of the bill says the bill would “authorize a court to take temporary jurisdiction because a child has been unable to obtain gender-affirming health care.”
Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF) said the law “violates parental rights” and is “likely unconstitutional.
“[It] would hide medical information from parents, facilitate taking away custody of children from their own parents, and deny courts of the family’s home state the ability to exercise jurisdiction over the case.,” an ADF analysis said.
ADF presented four possible scenarios in which the new law could harm families:
- “An unfit parent about to lose custody could travel to California with the child, give the child puberty blockers or cross-sex hormones, and in doing so win custody under SB 107, even if the home-state court has already entered.”
- “Parents whose child visits a relative in California could lose custody of their child forever if the relative persuades the child to identify as a different gender during the visit.”
- “A state court actively involved in a custody determination could be deprived of jurisdiction by a California court if the case involved gender identity and the child travels to California, even if all of the evidence and parties involved in the case are located in the home state.”
- “Parents of children who never travel to California could be denied medical information about their child if the child obtains puberty blockers from a doctor in California via telemedicine.”
ADF said the new law empowers state courts “to strip parents of custody” from their own children over the issue of transgender treatments.
“[It] is likely unconstitutional for violating fundamental parental rights guaranteed by the U.S. Constitution,” ADF said in its analysis, which was released prior to Newsom signing the bill. “It also likely violates various federal laws, including those related to comity between the states and determinations of custody of children. The bill would likely fail if challenged in court and would unnecessarily waste taxpayer money.”
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Michael Foust has covered the intersection of faith and news for 20 years. His stories have appeared in Baptist Press, Christianity Today, The Christian Post, the Leaf-Chronicle, the Toronto Star and the Knoxville News-Sentinel.