Calling It ‘Unnecessary,’ Governor Gavin Newsom Vetoes Caste Bill
India-West News Desk
SACRAMENTO, CA – Declaring the bill “unnecessary,” California Governor Gavin Newsom‘s vetoed the bill that has been dividing the Hindu community and was aimed at explicitly outlawing caste discrimination in the state.
The proposed law would have integrated caste into the definition of ancestry, making it illegal to discriminate based on caste under the Unruh Civil Rights Act, Fair Employment and Housing Act, and education discrimination law.
Newsom, in his veto message, stated that caste discrimination was already prohibited under existing civil rights protections, which are broadly interpreted in California. “In California, we believe everyone deserves to be treated with dignity and respect, no matter who they are, where they come from, who they love, or where they live. That is why California already prohibits discrimination based on sex, race, color, religion, ancestry, national origin, disability, gender identity, sexual orientation, and other characteristics, and state law specifies that these civil rights protections shall be liberally construed,” he wrote.
The Coalition of Hindus of North America expressed their satisfaction, stating, “Delighted to see sanity prevail in #California. Thank you @GavinNewsom for vetoing #SB403. A victory for common sense, for American laws, and a win for those who fought for #justice.”
Activists led by Equality Labs had been upbeat throughout the process as the bill moved the process and several stages of discussion before it landed on the Governor’s desk. In support of the bill, some supporters had gone on a hunger strike.
Samir Kalra, HAF Managing Director, emphasized the importance of Governor Newsom’s decision, saying, “With the stroke of his pen, Governor Newsom has averted a civil rights and constitutional disaster that would have put a target on hundreds of thousands of Californians simply because of their ethnicity or their religious identity, as well as create a slippery slope of facially discriminatory laws. We thank Governor Newsom for listening to the thousands of voices that contacted his office and seeing that SB-403 was premised on racist rhetoric, a baseless lawsuit, egregious Civil Rights Department misconduct, false claims about the Hindu religion and South Asian community at large, and the self-serving, methodologically flawed caste survey by Equality Labs.”
Senate Bill 403 was introduced by freshman State Senator Aisha Wahab (D-Hayward), an Afghani-Muslim, in itself a matter of controversy for concerned groups. The bill divided the South Asian community with those for and against it lobbying and demonstrating and firing off on social media. Assembly member Ash Kalra, a Hindu American had kept silent on the matter but had voted along with the majority in support of the bill even while stating his anguish at how it was tearing the community.
Seattle became the first city to pass a caste discrimination ordinance earlier this year, and Fresno followed suit last month, becoming the first city in California to do so.