Gavin Newsom Signs Law Requiring ‘Gender Neutral’ Aisles in Toy Stores

California Gov. Gavin Newsom (D) signed a host of bills into law on Friday, including AB 1084, which requires “gender neutral retail departments” in toy stores, so that shoppers will not be encouraged some toys for girls and others for boys.

The bill, authored by Assemblymember Evan Low (D-Campbell), declares that differences in products that are marketed to girls or boys are “unjustified,” and that it is “inappropriate” to imply they should be used by one gender instead of another.

As such, the bill provides:

(a) A retail department store that offers childcare items or toys for sale shall 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.

(b) This section shall apply only to retail department stores that are physically located in California that have a total of 500 or more employees across all California retail department store locations. This section shall not apply to retail department stores that are physically located outside California.

(c) Beginning on January 1, 2024, a retail department store that fails to comply with this section is liable for a civil penalty, not to exceed two hundred fifty dollars ($250) for a first violation or five hundred dollars ($500) for a subsequent violation, which may be assessed and recovered in a civil action brought in the name of the people of the State of California by the Attorney General, or a district attorney or city attorney, in any court of competent jurisdiction. If the Attorney General, district attorney, or city attorney prevails in an action under this subdivision, the court shall award to the Attorney General, district attorney, or city attorney reasonable attorney’s fees and costs.

Stores can still maintain boys’ and girls’ sections, as long as they create one “gender neutral” area, though the legislation is unclear whether retailers could be punished for selling the same toys in gendered and gender neutral sections of the store.

Low told the Los Angeles Times: “Part of it is to make sure if you’re a young girl that you can find a police car, fire truck, a periodic table or a dinosaur,” Low said. “And then similarly, if you’re a boy, if you’re more artistic and want to play with glitter, why not? Why should you feel the stigma of saying, ‘Oh, this should be shamed’ and going to a different location?”