Reactions began pouring in thick and fast on Saturday as soon as California Governor Gavin Newsom vetoed the controversial and groundbreaking caste discrimination Bill SB 403, a legislation that would have added caste to the anti-discriminatory clause of state law.
California Governor Gavin Newsom on Saturday vetoed the California Caste Bill, SB-403, on the grounds that discrimination based on caste was already prohibited under California law and the bill was therefore unnecessary.
The landmark California anti-caste-discrimination bill — SB 403 Discrimination on the Basis of Ancestry’ — cleared the state Senate Concurrence panel with a 31-5 vote. It now reaches Governor Gavin Newsom’s desk who is likely to sign it into law, thus making California the first state in the US with such a legislation.
The California State Assembly passed the landmark anti-caste-discrimination bill SB 403 on August 28 with a 50-3 vote. It now moves to the Senate for its final concurrence vote before heading to Governor Gavin Newsom’s desk to be signed into state law. What started as a lawsuit at one of the Silicon Valley big tech companies Cisco is today on the verge of becoming a historic ‘caste’ law that never an Indian community would have imagined. When the lawsuit was filed in 2019, many wondered even ‘caste’ still dominates the Indian mind, but advocates of the Bill such as Thenmozhi Soundararajan say it still does, and that such a law is very much needed.
Some called it winning a tough, uphill task but others called it a black day for California History after the much-debated anti-caste discrimination bill — ‘SB 403 Discrimination on the Basis of Ancestry’ — passed the California Assembly floor with 50-3 votes, on August 28. Introduced by California State Senator Aisha Wahab (Democrat, 10th District) SB 403 seems one step closer to the Governor’s desk. When the Senate passes it and Governor Gavin Newsom signs it into law, California will become the first state in America to make caste bias illegal by adding it as a protected category in the state’s anti-discrimination laws.
California State Senator Aisha Wahab (Democrat, 10th District) sprang into the spotlight late last year for becoming the Muslim to be elected to the state law-making body. An Afghan American, Wahab has been in the crosshairs of Hindu advocacy groups the moment she introduced California Bill SB 403 in February 2023, which aimed at ending caste discrimination in the state.
The amended version of SB 403, the legislation introduced by California State Senator Aisha Wahab to counter caste discrimination, shows that the word ‘caste’ has been almost erased from the bill and has been replaced by ‘ancestry’. The first instance of the word ‘caste’ appeared in the first line of the original legislation. However, in the amended version, which was made public on July 10, reads: “SB 403, as amended, Wahab. Discrimination on the basis of caste ancestry.” The word ‘caste’ has been struck through.
The California state Senate passed SB 403, the Bill to ban caste-based discrimination in the state, on Thursday. The Bill, approved by a vote of 34-1, provides individuals with legal options to address allegations of caste bias and discrimination in housing, employment, education, and other contexts.
Protests, petitions, and meetings with lawmakers did not stop the California Senate Judiciary Committee to vote ‘Yes’ to SB 403: Discrimination on the Basis of Caste, which passed the committee with a resounding 8-0 vote on April 25. SB 403 or State Bill 403 is a piece of legislation introduced to make the state free of caste-based discrimination. If signed into law, California will become the first state in America to make caste bias illegal by adding it as a protected category in the state’s anti-discrimination laws.