By Signal Staff
State Sen. Scott Wilk, R-Santa Clarita, drew national media attention this week when he urged parents to “flee California” because of increasing government encroachment upon parents’ rights, and said that, when he leaves the Legislature, he, too, will be leaving the state and “moving to America.”
“I’m now in year 11 in the state Legislature and all the time we’re proposing policies to protect children. After 11 years I’ve come to (the) conclusion that we need to start protecting parents. That’s just not happening,” Wilk said during a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing on Assembly Bill 957, which would require judges to consider a parent’s decision on whether to affirm a child’s gender identity when ruling on custody rights in divorce proceedings.
“In the past when we’ve had these discussions and I’ve seen parental rights atrophied, I’ve encouraged people to keep fighting,” Wilk said in the hearing, which was livestreamed by the Senate. “I’ve changed my mind on that. If you love your children, you need to flee California. You need to flee.”
The bill authored by Assemblywoman Lori Wilson, D-Suisun City, passed the committee Tuesday on an 8-2 vote, with the committee’s only two Republicans, Wilk and Sen. Roger Niello, R-Fair Oaks, dissenting.
Wilk added that California is moving on a pathway toward “The Handmaid’s Tale” and becoming the new Gilead, referring to a 1985 dystopian novel, later made into a TV series, in which a totalitarian state overthrows the U.S. government.
“It just breaks my heart,” Wilk said. “Born and raised in this state. I love this state. I’m not going to stay in this state, because it’s just too oppressive. And I believe in freedom, and so, I’m going to move to America when I leave the Legislature.”
According to the Legislative Counsel’s digest of AB 957, if the bill is passed, a parent’s custody rights in a divorce proceeding could hinge upon whether the parent agrees to affirm a child’s chosen gender identity.
“Existing law governs the determination of child custody and visitation in contested proceedings and requires the court, for purposes of deciding custody, to determine the best interests of the child based on certain factors, including, among other things, the health, safety, and welfare of the child,” the Legislative Counsel digest reads. “This bill, for purposes of this provision, would include a parent’s affirmation of the child’s gender identity as part of the health, safety, and welfare of the child.”
Critics of the bill contend it could further subject parents to prosecution on child abuse charges if they do not affirm a child’s gender identity.
The bill passed the Assembly on March 30 on a 51-13 vote. Fifty Democrats and one Republican voted in favor, while 13 Republicans dissented.
The Santa Clarita Valley’s representatives were divided on that vote: Assemblywoman Pilar Schiavo, D-Chatsworth, who represents most of the SCV, voted in favor. Assemblyman Tom Lackey, R-Palmdale, who represents some eastern portions of the SCV, voted against it.
Wilk acknowledged that the current bill only involves divorce proceedings, “but I can assure you it’s not going to end with divorce proceedings.”
“I’ve been here and witnessed a full-frontal assault on charter schools, taking away parents’ choice and how their children are being educated, to the detriment particularly of children of color,” Wilk said. “In recent years we have put government bureaucrats between parents, children and doctors when it comes to medical care. And now we have this, where if a parent does not support the ideology of the government, they’re going to be taken away from the home.”
“That was from the heart,” Wilk said in a phone interview Thursday, reflecting on his comments in the hearing. “I see a disconnect between the ideology of the party in power of the Legislature and everyday Californians.”
In previous community presentations over the past several years, Wilk has spoke of the exodus of families leaving California despite the “weather dividend” of living in the Golden State.
“The weather dividend is not going to be worth the price you pay in quality of life,” he said Thursday, adding that legislators are “in denial over the exodus but it is certainly happening.”
Wilk, a longtime Santa Clarita resident, served on the College of the Canyons board of trustees before being elected to the state Assembly in 2012. He was elected to the Senate in 2016. Due to term limits, his final term in the Legislature ends in December 2024.
Video of the entire hearing can be found at www.senate.ca.gov/media-archive.