California Forces Retailers to Provide Gender-Neutral Toy Sections

California Democrat Governor Gavin Newsom recently signed a bill that will require large retailers in the state to have toy sections that are “gender-neutral.”

Large retailers in California will be required to have “gender-neutral sections or areas” that feature a “reasonable selection” of toys and children’s items, “regardless of whether they have been traditionally marketed for either girls or for boys,” according to the bill.

The new law will go into effect on January 1, 2024. It applies to all retailers and stores that have 500 or more employees across the state.

Any retailers that fail to follow the new law will be forced to pay a $250 fine, with subsequent violations earning a $500 penalty. The measure was approved by the California state legislature last month.

The bill argues that the separation of toys that are traditionally marketed for boys and girls “makes it more difficult for the consumer to compare the products and incorrectly implies that their use by one gender is inappropriate.”

The legislation contends that there are “unjustified differences” in similar products marketed for girls or boys. The aim is to place “gender-neutral” products on shelves next to one another.

According to California Democrat Assembly Member Evan Low, separating children’s toys by marketed gender “is the antithesis of modern thinking.”

‘Let parents be parents’

“Traditionally, children’s toys and products have been categorized by a child’s gender. In retail, this has led to the proliferation of [science, technology, engineering, and mathematics]-geared toys in a ‘boys’ section and toys that direct girls to pursuits such as caring for a baby, fashion, and domestic life,” said Low in a statement provided to the CA assembly’s judiciary committee.

Low said the bill was inspired by a conversation his 10-year-old daughter had with her mother when she asked why some toys marketed for boys were off-limits to girls and vice-versa.

Some conservative groups and businesses oppose the bill.

They argue that companies should not have to answer to the government that may hinder efforts to adapt to the ebbs and flows of the free market.

Those in opposition have taken issue with the gender part of the bill, arguing that lawmakers do not have the authority to push the government’s thoughts on gender and force retailers to follow the legislation with which they may disagree.

Republican State Senator Melissa Melendez said she voted against the bill to “let parents be parents.”

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

The most recent legislative session was the third time California lawmakers tried to pass the bill. Legislators previously attempted to pass the legislation in 2019 and 2020, with the attempts failing.