California bill would require large retailers to have a gender neutral display area for toys, childcare products

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The state of California could eventually start requiring large retail department stores to have a gender neutral display section that contains some of the toys and childcare items available for purchase.

The bill would force retailers with a certain number of employees to have a gender neutral area to display “a reasonable selection” of such products “regardless of whether they have been traditionally marketed for either girls or for boys.”

The legislation passed the California Senate Wednesday, kicking it back to the state Assembly for a procedural vote prior to when it can then go to Gov. Gavin Newsom, according to the Associated Press.

Starting in 2024 non-compliant stores can face a $250 civil penalty for a first infraction and $500 for a subsequent violation.

According to the AP, Democratic Assemblyman Evan Low said the proposal was inspired by a 10-year-old child named Britten whose mom works in his legislative office.

“Britten asked her mom while shopping why certain things in a store were ‘off limits’ to her because she was a girl, but would be fine if she was a boy,” Low said, according to the outlet. “Thankfully, my colleagues recognized the pure intentions of this bill and the need to let kids be kids.”

GOP State Sen. Melissa Melendez voted to oppose the legislation, noting that she would “recommend we let parents be parents,” according to the outlet. “I don’t think parents need the government to step in and tell them how they should shop for their children,” she said.

Democratic state Sen. Scott Wiener noted that he and Low are “childless gay men” but defended their right to hold views regarding kids and families, according to the AP.

“We know what it was like to grow up not conforming to the way that your gender is supposed to be,” he said, noting: “This is about making safe spaces for all children in today’s society and not pushing, sometimes forcing children to conform.”

While the AP said the bill would not apply to clothes, it appears that another version of the bill last year did apply to clothing.

“I was inspired to introduce this bill after 8-year-old Britten asked, ‘Why should a store tell me what a girl’s shirt or toy is?'” Assemblymember Evan Low said, according to a 2020 press release about that prior version of the legislation. “Her bill will help children express themselves freely and without bias. We need to let kids be kids.”

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