New CA law mandates gender-neutral sections at big retailers | The Fresno Bee


Big California retailers must offer gender-neutral children’s aisles under new law

A new California law requires large retailers to use gender-neutral language in selling childcare products and toys.
A new California law requires large retailers to use gender-neutral language in selling childcare products and toys. Associated Press file

Gov. Gavin Newsom on Saturday signed a law that requires large California retailers to maintain gender neutral toy and childcare sections.

The new law, Assembly Bill 1084, requires that retailers with 500 or more employees in the state of California “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,” according to the legislative counsel’s digest.

Assemblyman Evan Low, D-Campbell, and Assemblywoman Cristina Garcia, D-Bell Gardens, introduced the bill.

Low in an interview with The Sacramento Bee earlier this year said he was inspired to introduce the bill after he learned of Target’s 2015 decision to abolish gendered children’s sections. The bill was sponsored by gender-free fashion brand The Phluid Project,

“As much as I’d like to think of this as watershed legislation, this is something the industry is already doing. We’re just trying to play catch up,” Low said earlier this year.

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The Consumer Federation of California also supported Low’s proposal. “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,” the federation said in backing the bill.

One of the most vocal opponents of the law was the conservative California Family Council, which said that the bill was a marketing scheme by Rob Smith, the proprietor of The Phluid Project, to sell his gender-neutral clothing.

“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,” California Family Council President Jonathan Keller said in a statement. “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.”

This story was originally published October 9, 2021 6:11 PM.

Andrew Sheeler covers California’s unique political climate for the Sacramento Bee. He has covered crime and politics from Interior Alaska to North Dakota’s oil patch to the rugged coast of southern Oregon. He attended the University of Alaska Fairbanks.
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