California legislators are considering a bill that would require retailers to display children’s clothing, toys and other child-related items in a “gender-neutral area,” regardless of whether the items have traditionally been marketed for either girls or boys.
AB 1084 would add a section titled “Gender Neutral Retail Departments” to the state’s civil rights law, and would prohibit retail department stores with 500 or more employees from using signage within the undivided gender-neutral area to distinguish between girls and boys products.
“Assembly Bill 1084 does nothing to advance civil rights—and a lot to undermine the ability of retail stores to manage their own businesses,” California Family Council (CFC), a state affiliate of Focus on the Family, argues.
The bill would even extend to California-based stores that sell products online, forcing them to include pages on their websites offering the products in a collective “kids,” “unisex,” or “gender-neutral” format.
“This is an issue of children being able to express themselves without bias,” California assembly member Evan Low, who introduced the bill, contended.
Low has previously said that the inspiration for the bill came from the 9-year-old daughter of one of his staffers. The child told him that she didn’t like how boy and girl sections were separated and that he should make a law against it.
“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,” the bill reads.
If passed, AB 1084 would go into effect on Jan. 1, 2024. According to the text of the bill, retail department stores that fail to comply with the law will receive a written notice from the attorney general and be given 30 days to correct the violation. But if a store continues to violate the law, it would be “liable for a civil penalty of $1,000.”
“California doesn’t need additional laws that micromanage and punish businesses,” CFC says. “This self-proclaimed civil rights bill actually cheapens the noble intent of the [civil rights] law. It’s one thing to forbid companies from discriminating against people, but quite another to tell them how to market and merchandise sale items with the goal of changing public perceptions of gender roles.”
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