California law creating 'sanctuary' for child gender surgeries raises parental rights concerns

California Gov. Gavin Newsom speaks during a bill signing ceremony at Nido's Backyard Mexican Restaurant on Feb. 9, 2022 in San Francisco, California.
California Gov. Gavin Newsom speaks during a bill signing ceremony at Nido's Backyard Mexican Restaurant on Feb. 9, 2022 in San Francisco, California. | Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

California Gov. Gavin Newsom signed a new law that critics say would effectively make California a sanctuary state for trans-identified minors seeking life-altering surgeries and hormones. A prominent legal group contends the new law creates serious parental rights concerns. 

Newsom signed into law SB 107 Thursday, which contains several provisions related to "gender-affirming healthcare." The measure passed the California State Assembly in a 60-19 vote on Aug. 29, followed by a 30-9 vote in the California Senate on Aug. 31. In both cases, the vote fell along party lines, with all support coming from Democrats and all opposition coming from Republicans. 

The legislation amends the Sunshine State's family code to grant a state court "temporary emergency jurisdiction" if a child "is subjected to, or threatened with, mistreatment or abuse, or because the child has been unable to obtain gender-affirming health care or gender-affirming mental health care."

Opponents of the law, such as the Alliance Defending Freedom, believe the language opens the door for a state court to take a child away from a parent or guardian who refuses to allow their trans-identified children to undergo puberty suppression, cross-sex hormone regimens or body-mutilating gender transition surgeries.

The law's proponents contend that the new law doesn't give the state courts any additional authority than they already have. 

The bill also bars healthcare providers, insurers and contractors from "releasing medical information related to a person or entity allowing a child to receive gender-affirming health care or gender-affirming mental health care" when requested by other state law enforcement agencies bringing criminal action against "a person or entity that allows a child to receive gender-affirming health care." 

Additionally, the measure prohibits healthcare providers from releasing medical information  if "the information is being requested pursuant to another state's law that authorizes a person to bring a civil action against a person or entity who allows a child to receive gender-affirming health care or gender-affirming mental health care." 

The Alliance Defending Freedom, a national legal nonprofit that has won cases before the U.S. Supreme Court, is one of several organizations that have expressed concerns about the implications of the new law.

In an Aug. 2 letter to the California Assembly Committee on Appropriations, ADF Senior Counsel Matt Sharp warned that "SB 107 violates parental rights protected by the U.S. Constitution by giving California courts the ability to strip parents who reside in another state of their parental rights if their child travels to California to obtain gender transition procedures."

"This bill would lead to significant harm to families throughout the country," Sharp predicted.

Sharp outlined several scenarios that, he believes, could result following the legislation's passage, such as "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 judgment on the case."

In addition, Sharp claims that "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."

Another potential consequence of the bill, Sharp claims, involves the deprivation of jurisdiction from courts in other states 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," Sharp added, calling the bill California's attempt to "undermine parental rights [and] pit children against their parents."

A spokesperson for Sen. Scott Wiener, who sponsored the bill, told Reuters that the legislation "doesn't give courts (new) authority to take custody from parents of minors seeking gender-affirming care."

"All the bill does is provide guidance to courts about hearing cases where they already are allowed to do so under California law," the spokesperson said. 

However, the bill does give jurisdiction to state courts for children who travel to California for "gender-affirming healthcare" they can't receive elsewhere under a category of "emergencies" because the child has been "unable to obtain gender-affirming health care or gender-affirming mental health care."

"State courts around the country have the authority to consider whether to retain jurisdiction over a custody matter involving a child who recently came into the state," Asaf Orr, an attorney at the National Center for Lesbian Rights, told Reuters. 

"This typically occurs in instances of domestic violence or other crisis situations. This law simply clarifies that courts should retain jurisdiction in situations where a parent brings their child to California so that they can obtain medical treatment for gender dysphoria from a state that has banned or restricted access to that care."

Emilie Kao, the senior counsel and vice president of advocacy strategy at Alliance Defending Freedom, said in a statement that the new law is an "astonishing disregard for the Constitution and the laws of other states."

"California will now be able to take away custody of children from their own parents — no matter what state they're from — and deny families the right to access their child's medical information," she said.

"Parents have the fundamental right to direct the upbringing and care of their children, which includes making the best decisions regarding their children's mental, emotional, and physical health."

Kao warned the new law is the "latest in an onslaught of attacks against parental rights and a demonstration of just how far some governments are willing to go to replace parents as the ultimate decision makers of what's best for children."

Other states have passed laws prohibiting children from receiving gender transition surgeries, puberty blockers and cross-sex hormones.

Alabama, Arizona and Arkansas have implemented laws banning children from obtaining such procedures. The Texas Department of Family and Protective Services and the state's Republican Attorney General Ken Paxton have classified them as a form of child abuse. 

The American College of Pediatricians has maintained that "there is not a single long-term study to demonstrate the safety or efficacy of puberty blockers, cross-sex hormones and surgeries for transgender-believing youth."

The group, which describes itself as a "national organization of pediatricians and other healthcare professionals dedicated to the health and well-being of children," lists "osteoporosis, mood disorders, seizures, cognitive impairment and, when combined with cross-sex hormones, sterility" as possible side effects of puberty blockers. 

ACP reports that the use of cross-sex hormones is accompanied by "an increased risk of heart attacks, stroke, diabetes, blood clots and cancers."

Parental rights have developed into a major hot-button issue in American politics.

Some school districts in the U.S., including Leon County Public Schools in Florida and Montgomery County Public Schools in Maryland, have been sued for policies requiring teachers to affirm trans-identified children's preferred gender identities without their parental consent.

A bill signed into law by Florida's Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis earlier this year instructs school districts not to enact policies that keep parents in the dark about any changes to their children's mental health. 

Florida forbids the adoption of "procedures or student support forms that prohibit school district personnel from notifying a parent about his or her student's mental, emotional, or physical health or well-being" that "encourage or have the effect of encouraging a student to withhold from a parent such information."

Ryan Foley is a reporter for The Christian Post. He can be reached at:

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