California Governor Gavin Newsom vetoes Caste Discrimination Bill SB 403


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.

Some Indian American groups have called this move a victory for Hindu Americans, adding that protection against caste discrimination isn’t necessary in the US and that the bill was discriminating against Indians and Hindus.

READ: indica’s complete coverage, including exclusive interviews and analyses of California Bill SB 403

Gavin Newsom told members of the California State Senate: “I am returning Senate Bill 403 without my signature. This bill would define “ancestry” for purposes of the Fair Employment and Housing Act, the Unruh Act, and the Education Code to include “caste” and other dimensions of ancestry.”

He said that 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, colour, 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 added: “Because discrimination based on caste is already prohibited under these existing categories, this bill is unnecessary.”

The Hindu American Foundation offered its appreciation to California Governor Gavin Newsom for his “historically important veto of SB-403.”

HAF Managing Director, Samir Kalra, said: “Today, we at the Hindu American Foundation join South Asians across California and the Hindu American community in offering our heartfelt appreciation to California Governor Gavin Newsom for his historically important veto of SB-403. This is a victory for the civil rights of all Californians.”

Kalra said 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,” he said.

“We thank political leaders of both parties, in all levels of government, who demonstrated moral courage in opposing this racist bill. Whether by passing local resolutions opposing discriminatory legislation, working with HAF to remove facially discriminatory language, outright voting against the bill or vetoing SB-403 — we will never forget that you defended the Hindu and South Asian communities at a critical moment in California history,” he added.

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