By Dorothy Li
Tech entrepreneur and California resident Elon Musk criticized an assembly bill in the state, calling the proposed law to require that parents affirm their child’s transgender identify for custody rights “a wolf in sheep’s clothing.”
Mr. Musk’s comment came as the Democratic-majority State Assembly approved the legislation on Sept. 8, sending it to Gov. Gavin Newsom’s desk.
The bill, AB 957, incorporates parents’ “affirmation of the child’s gender identity or gender expression” into the concept of a child’s “health, safety, and welfare.” If passed, the bill will require a judge to consider whether a parent affirms a child’s ideas about gender transition when determining custody or visitation rights.
“This bill is a wolf in sheep’s clothing,” Mr. Musk wrote on Friday on X, formerly called Twitter. “What it would actually mean is that if you disagree with the other parent about sterilizing your child, you lose custody. Utter madness!”
The bill was initially introduced by Assemblywoman Lori Wilson, a Democrat, in February. She previously argued the legislation doesn’t prioritize a parent’s gender-affirming over other judicial criteria that determine custody disputes.
“If you have a child going through that system, a judge has discretion, like they do looking at the totality of circumstances related to the health, safety, and welfare of a child, to consider different factors,” the Assemblywoman told ABC7 in June after the bill made its way through California Legislature.
“One of the factors, not the factor, but one of the factors, would be the parent’s affirmation of a child’s gender identity.”
At the Senate Judiciary Committee hearing, Ms. Wilson said the bill was intended to address “parents antagonistic to their child’s gender identity.”
State Sen. Scott Wilk, a Republican, said there have been many policies introduced to protect children during his 11 years in the state legislature. But now, he said, it’s time to start protecting parents.
“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,” Mr. Wilk said. “If you love your children, you need to flee California.”
How to Raise Children
On Sept. 6, the bill cleared the state Senate in a near-party-line vote, 30-9. Democrats argue that the legislation would help to protect the well-being of LGBTQ+ children whose parents are going through a divorce.
Every Republican in the state Senate voted against the bill, with state Sen. Kelly Seyarto, who represents Murrieta in Southern California, arguing that lawmakers were interfering too much with how parents choose to raise their children.
The Democrat governor now has until Oct. 15 to either sign the bill into law or veto it.
Some parental rights groups warned the bill would leave parents involved in a child custody battle with no choice but to consent to recommendations of gender change for their child at any age, for any gender identity.
“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,” Jennifer Kennedy, spokesperson for Our Duty, a parental rights group, told The Epoch Times on Sept. 8. “Why would Newsom attack families already in crisis? He needs to read the room and veto AB 957.”
Ms. Kennedy, a civil rights attorney, argued the bill would infringe parental rights and remove the discretion of judges to consider the facts involved in child custody disputes on a case-by-case basis.
“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.”
Chloe Cole, who agreed to have a “gender-affirming” surgeon remove her breasts at the age of 15—a life-changing decision she regrets after reaching the age of majority—also took to social media to voice her opposition.
“This issue is wildly unpopular yet the Cali Gov pushes forward with more and more radical policies,” she said in response to Mr. Musk’s post. “@ProtectKidsCA is trying to introduce ballot measures that will stop the sterilization of kids in California.”
Michael Seifert, the Founder and Chief Executive Officer of PublicSq, called the bill a “legislated evil.”
“California is determined to discover rock bottom,” he said in a post on Friday. “I’m so glad we left that state.”
“I don’t even recognize my former home anymore.”
The Associated Press and Brad Jones contributed to this report.