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NY Post
New York Post
22 Jul 2023


NextImg:How two California laws could pit Newsom against DeSantis

California Governor Gavin Newsom has been artful in his stealth candidacy for president. He’s skirted the need to file campaign fundraising and spending reports by stating hat he has “sub-zero interest” in running for the White House — even as he spent his California campaign cash buying billboards and TV ads in other states. He recently formed a new campaign committee to pay for travel around the country, where he presses the flesh and denies he’s a candidate.

One of Newsom’s most artful moves was a flip-flopping on the issue of reparations, proudly signing the law that created the California Reparations Task Force in September 2020, then this past May telling Fox News that he doesn’t necessarily endorse “cash payments.”

But two controversial bills that could land on Newsom’s desk may test his skill as an artful dodger.

Gov. Newsom poses for a photo op in Utah earlier this year — part of his recent swing across the West to boost his public profile.
John Parra

The bills Newsom may potentially sign focus on the rights of parents to give consent to gender-affirming care as well as whether that consent could be used in child custody debates.

The bills Newsom may potentially sign focus on the rights of parents to give consent to gender-affirming care as well as whether that consent could be used in child custody debates.

Assembly Bills 665 and 957 are both on the verge of passage, potentially putting Newsom in the center of the volatile parental rights debate, which rival Florida Governor Ron DeSantis has made such a signature issue that he even created a political action committee called “Empower Parents PAC.”

AB 665 cites the need to protect “LGBTQ+ youth” from “rejection from parents” and “negativity present in society.” It would allow children as young as 12 to enter residential shelters in order to receive mental health services. Parents would not have to give their consent and might not even be notified that their child is receiving such care. 

Instead, under AB 665, “professional persons” — even a “social work intern” — providing treatment or counseling would be allowed to decide whether it would be “inappropriate” to let parents know what’s happening with their kids.

Current California law generally doesn’t allow children as young as 12 to receive mental health treatments or shelter care without parental consent unless the child is a danger to themselves or others, or the alleged victim of abuse. AB 665 removes these conditions. 

Gov. DeSantis has made parental rights a cornerstone of his presidential campaign, placing him squarely at odds with Newsom.

Gov. DeSantis has made parental rights a cornerstone of his presidential campaign, placing him squarely at odds with Newsom.
REUTERS

The other politically fraught bill that could confront Newsom is AB 957, which affects child custody disputes. Current law requires a court that is deciding custody to determine the best interests of the child based on factors such as their health, safety and welfare. AB 957 expands the definition of “health, safety, and welfare” to include “a parent’s affirmation of the child’s gender identity or gender expression.” 

“Affirmation includes a range of actions and will be unique for each child, but in every case must promote the child’s overall health and well-being,” the bill states. What does “overall health” mean in this context? Imagine a child voices a “gender expression” and their parents have opposing views on whether “affirmation” should include puberty blockers or surgery. What is a judge supposed to do — revoke custody?

Once the definition of the “health, safety, and welfare of the child” is changed in the California Family Code, this hazy definition of “affirmation” may find its way into the enforcement of other laws. For example, California Penal Code Section 11165.6 defines “child abuse or neglect” as “the willful harming or injuring of a child or the endangering of the person or health of a child.” But does it endanger the health of a child to withhold medical interventions such as puberty blockers or other transgender-related procedures? Or does it endanger the health of the child to allow it?

Members of California's Reparations Task Force. Gov. Newsom initially supported cash pay-outs to African-Americans, but then changed his tune.

Members of California’s Reparations Task Force. Gov. Newsom initially supported cash pay-outs to African-Americans, but then changed his tune.

The outcome of California's Reparations push has vast implications both for similar efforts in other states an Newsom's political future.

The outcome of California’s Reparations push has vast implications both for similar efforts in other states an Newsom’s political future.
AP

And who decides? The child? A judge? A social work intern?

Newsom has denounced DeSantis for signing the Parental Rights in Education bill – the supposed “Don’t Say Gay” law banning classroom instruction on sexual orientation or gender identity in kindergarten through third grade. DeSantis, meanwhile, has repeatedly pointed to the ongoing exodus of California residents — including many who fled to Florida during Covid. “Leftist government is destroying that state,” DeSantis told a recent gathering of conservative activists. 

AB 665 and AB 957 have passed in the Assembly and await a Senate floor vote in August. If they reach Newsom’s desk and he signs them, DeSantis is well positioned to pick up support from outraged parents.

Much like reparations, the issue of parental rights could easily hound Newsom throughout his “campaign” for president — whether in 2024, 2028 or beyond.  

Susan Shelley is a columnist and editorial writer for the Southern California News Group. On Twitter @Susan_Shelley.