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California bill would ban boys and girls sections at big retailers
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California bill would ban boys and girls sections at big retailers

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SACRAMENTO, Calif. — California's large retailers would need to do away with boy and girl signage for toys and child care aisles, under a bill being considered by state lawmakers.

Assembly Bill 1084 would require retailers with 500 or more employees "to maintain undivided areas of its sales floor where the majority of those items being offered are displayed, regardless of whether an item has traditionally been marketed for either girls or for boys," according to the Legislative Counsel's digest of the bill.

The bill would also prohibit the use of signage to indicate whether a particular child care item or toy is for boys or girls. Online retailers with a physical presence in California would be required to label their toy and child care sections in a unisex or gender neutral way.

The bill, which if passed would go into effect Jan. 1, 2024, contains a provision to punish violating retailers with a $1,000 civil penalty.

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Barbie dolls, made by Mattel, are displayed on a shelf at a Target store in San Rafael, California.

The bill is co-authored by Assemblyman Evan Low, D-Campbell, who chairs the California Legislative LGBT Caucus, and Assemblywoman Cristina Garcia, D-Bell Gardens, who chairs the California Legislative Women's Caucus.

A previous version of the bill was introduced in 2020, but was pulled at Low's request because the Legislature was grappling with a then-ascendant COVID-19 pandemic.

Low said that he was inspired by Target's 2015 decision to abolish gendered kids sections.

"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," he said.

Low said he also took inspiration for the bill from a staffer's 9-year-old daughter, who wanted to know why she had to go into the "boys" aisle to find science-related toys.

"That was the impetus of this, which is how do we make a safe space today for children in society," he said.

Low said the bill is especially important as children begin to return to school as coronavirus-related closures come to an end. It's important to provide them with a positive experience that lets them shop without stigma, he said.

He likened the bill to several new California laws that prohibit retailers from marking up items marketed to women, mandating that corporations appoint women to their boards of directors and establishing gender-neutral bathrooms.

"That's our agenda, those are our California values, and that's our agenda," Low said.

Lawmakers had help crafting the language of the bill from Rob Smith, founder and CEO of The Phluid Project, a gender-free fashion brand.

"Fashion and gender is just like everything else, it's always changing and evolving," Smith said in an interview.

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