Retailers in California that sell childcare items or toys and have 500 or more employees will face fines of up to $500 if they fail to “maintain a gender-neutral section or area,” according to a new bill signed into law by Democratic Gov. Gavin Newsom on Saturday.
The bill, AB 1084 sponsored by California Assemblymember Evan Low, who also chairs the state's LGBTQ Caucus, requires large retailers that sell toys or childcare items “to maintain a gender neutral section or area, to be labeled at the discretion of the retailer, in which a reasonable selection of the items and toys for children that it sells shall be displayed, regardless of whether they have been traditionally marketed for either girls or for boys.” This new law will go into effect on Jan. 1, 2024.
Stores that fail to comply with the law, which is the first of its kind in the U.S., will be “liable for a civil penalty not to exceed $250 for a first violation or $500 for a subsequent violation, as provided.”
"I'm incredibly grateful to Governor Gavin Newsom for signing AB 1084, which will bring California law up to speed with what many retailers have already realized: We need to stop stigmatizing what's acceptable for certain genders and just let kids be kids. My hope is this bill encourages more businesses across California and the U.S. to avoid reinforcing harmful and outdated stereotypes,” Low said in a statement.
He told The Sacramento Bee in an earlier report that he was inspired to introduce the bill after learning that retail giant Target abolished gendered children’s sections in 2015.
The Consumer Federation of California also supported the bill in a statement, noting: “This bill will allow consumers to easily identify similar children’s items which will be displayed closer to one another in one, undivided area of the retail sales floor. Keeping similar items that are traditionally marketed either for girls or for boys separated makes it more difficult for the consumer to compare the products and incorrectly implies that their use by one gender is inappropriate. ... Separating products by gender also helps to disguise the unfortunate fact that female products are often priced higher than male products.”
Reacting to the news on Sunday, Texas' Republican Gov. Greg Abbott publicly decried the law, noting that in Texas, it will be "businesses — NOT government — that decide how they display their merchandise,” he tweeted.
The bill was one of several, including AB-367, signed into law by Newsom on Saturday to wrap up the 2020-'21 legislative session to advance his California Comeback Plan. AB-367, enacted the Menstrual Equity for All Act of 2021.
On or before the start of the 2022–'23 school year, this bill requires public schools with a combination of classes from the sixth grade to the 12th grade that “meets a 40% pupil poverty threshold specified in federal law, to stock 50% of the school’s restrooms with feminine hygiene products, and prohibits a public school from charging for any menstrual products provided to pupils.”
“In a time when the state and country are more divided than ever, this legislative session reminds us what we can accomplish together. I am thankful for our partners in the state Legislature who furthered our efforts to tackle the state’s most persistent challenges — together, we took action to address those challenges head-on, implementing historic legislation and the California Comeback Plan to hit fast forward on our state’s recovery,” Newsom said of his plan in a statement. “What we’re doing here in California is unprecedented in both nature and scale. We will come back from this pandemic stronger than ever before.”