California will require toy sellers to provide a non-gendered section in their stores under a new law

A family shops for toys in a department store.
A family shops for toys in a department store. bogdankosanovic/Getty Images
  • Big retailers that sell toys and childcare items in California must provide gender-neutral sections.
  • Gov. Gavin Newsom signed the law on Saturday and it goes into effect in 2024.
  • California is the first US state to require the move, though some retailers are already doing it.

A new law in California requires large retailers who sell toys and childcare products in the state to offer a gender-neutral section in their stores.

California Gov. Gavin Newsom signed the bill during his final action of the 2020-21 legislative session on Saturday, making his state the first in the nation to have such a requirement, the AP reported.

The law was authored by state Assemblymember Evan Low and applies to companies with 500 or more employees in the state, such as Target, Walmart, or Macy’s, while small independent shops would be exempt.

According to the text of the law, a retailer may offer separate sections for girls and boys, but it must provide a “reasonable selection of the items and toys for children that it sells” in a non-gendered section. The rule goes into effect on January 1, 2024, and stores that fail to comply could be fined up to $US250 ($AU342) for a first violation and $US500 ($AU684) for all subsequent violations.

Low told the AP the law was inspired by the 10-year-old daughter of one of his staffers who asked her mother why certain items were “off limits” for girls but acceptable for boys.

“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 told the Los Angeles Times . “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?”

State Senator Melissa Melendez, who opposed the bill, said the legislature should “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, according to the AP. “I don’t think parents need the government to step in and tell them how they should shop for their children.”

The non-profit Consumer Federation of California argued in favor of the bill, saying it would help consumers compare prices on similar items more directly.

“Keeping similar items that are traditionally marketed either for girls or for boys separated makes it more difficult for the consumer to compare the products and incorrectly implies that their use by one gender is inappropriate,” the CFC said.

Some retailers like Target have already moved away from using gender-based signage in their stores, particularly in toy sections.

“We know that shopping preferences and needs change and, as guests have pointed out, in some departments like Toys, Home or Entertainment, suggesting products by gender is unnecessary,” Target said in 2015.