California Senate passes bill requiring department stores to have gender neutral sections

SACRAMENTO (KUSI) -California could soon force large department stores to display some child products in gender neutral ways after the state Legislature passed a bill on Wednesday aimed at getting rid of traditional pink and blue marketing schemes for items like toys and toothbrushes.

The California Senate on Monday passed a bill that would require stores with at least 500 employees to maintain gender-neutral sections in their stores.

The bill would not outlaw traditional boys and girls sections in department stores, but it would require retailers to have a gender neutral section to display “a reasonable selection” of items “regardless of whether they have been traditionally marketed for either girls or for boys.” It would only apply to toys and childcare products, not clothes.

The bill has passed both the Assembly and the Senate. But it requires one more procedural vote in the Assembly before it can go to the governor’s desk. Similar versions of this bill failed to pass in 2019 and 2020.

If it becomes law, California would become the first state to require these sections in stores, according to the office of Democrat Assemblyman Evan Low, the bill’s author.

Republican State Senator Melissa Melendez, from Lake Elsinore, voted against the bill, explaining she would rather “recommend we let parents be parents.”

“Unlike the author, I actually have children, five of them to be exact, and I can tell you it is very convenient for parents,” she said. “I don’t think parents need the government to step in and tell them how they should shop for their children.”

The AP reports that Sen. Scott Wiener, a Democrat from San Francisco, said that while both he and Low are “childless gay men,” he defended their right to have opinions about children and families.

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

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