A California bill that would force retail stores to sell gender-neutral clothes and toys in a separate section sailed through two committees in April and is favored to pass a third committee this week.
The bill, AB 1084, would require stores with 500 or more employees that sell childcare items, clothing or toys to maintain a “gender-neutral section” of the store with gender-neutral items, clothes and toys, according to the text of the legislation.
Stores that fail to comply could be fined $250 for the first violation and $500 for each subsequent violation.
“Unjustified differences in similar products that are traditionally marketed either for girls or for boys can be more easily identified by the consumer if similar items are displayed closer to one another in one, undivided area of the retail sales floor,” the bill says.
It passed the Judiciary Committee on April 27 by a vote of 7-3 and the Business and Professions Committee on April 6, 11-4. Thus far, all “yes” votes have come from Democrats, according to the California Family Council. Democrats control both chambers. It is scheduled to be heard by the Assembly Appropriation Committee this week.
It is authored by Assemblyman Evan Low, who also wrote a bill (AB 2826) last year prohibiting stores from dividing girls’ and boys’ sections. That bill never received a committee vote. The new bill apparently has a better chance of becoming law.
“I like where you are going with this bill,” Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez said during a hearing last month. She asked, “Why don’t you combine all the girls’ and boys’ clothes with no designation?”
Gonzalez added, “Let’s get rid of [gendered] labels while we are at it.”
Low responded that “he would like to go this way” but views the new bill as a first step, according to the California Family Council.
Businessman Rob Smith, the founder of the Phluid Project line of gender-neutral clothes, testified in favor of the bill.
“You have to give Rob Smith credit; he’s found quite an audacious marketing plan in asking Sacramento to force California retailers to make room for his products,” said Jonathan Keller, president of the California Family Council. “But activists and state legislators have no right to force retailers to espouse government-approved messages about gender. It’s a violation of free speech and it’s just plain wrong.”
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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.