SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) – California on Saturday became the first state to declare that department stores must display products like toys and toothbrushes in a gender-neutral manner, a victory for LGBT advocates who say the shades pinks and blues of traditional marketing methods pressure children to conform to gender stereotypes.
The new law, signed by Democratic Governor Gavin Newsom, does not ban traditional sections for boys and girls in department stores. Instead, he says department stores should also have a gender-neutral section to display “a reasonable selection” of items “whether they have traditionally been marketed for girls or for boys.”
It does not include clothes. The law only applies to toys and “childcare articles”, which include hygiene and teething products. And that only applies to stores with at least 500 employees, which means small businesses are exempt.
Congressman Evan Low, a Democrat from San Jose who drafted the bill, said he was “incredibly grateful” that Newsom signed the bill this year – the third time Democrats in the Legislature The state is trying to pass this law, with similar bills having failed in 2019 and 2020.
Low said he was inspired by the 10-year-old daughter of one of his employees, who asked her mother why certain items in the store were “off limits” to her because she was a girl.
“We have to stop stigmatizing what is acceptable for certain genders and let children be children,” Low said. “I hope this bill encourages more businesses in California and the United States to avoid reinforcing harmful and outdated stereotypes.”
While California is the first state to require it, some department stores have already changed the way they display their products. Target Corp., with 1,915 stores across the United States, announced in 2015 that it would stop using gender-specific signs in its stores.
The law faced opposition from some Republicans and some conservative groups, who argued that the government should not tell parents how to buy for their children.
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