California’s landmark bill SB 403 heads to Gov Newsom’s desk to be enacted into law

Ritu Jha–

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.

California State Senator Aisha Wahab, the author of SB 403

Introduced by Senator Aisha Wahab (D-10th District) earlier this year, said on the Senate floor on Tuesday that SB 403 is a “very simple bill that will protect all people against caste discrimination, regardless of caste: upper caste, lower caste, it does not matter,” according to

READ: indica’s exhaustive reporting on SB 403

Despite controversy, and protests from the opposition, SB 403 passed the California Assembly floor with 50-3 votes, on August 28 and the Senate in May cleared it by 34-1 votes.

Bill SB 403 will revise California’s Unruh Civil Rights Act, Education, and Housing codes by adding: caste” as a protected category under “ancestry.”

The Council on American-Islamic Relations said it celebrated the passage of SB 403 by the Senate Concurrence committee. CAIR’s California Policy & Government Affairs Manager Nazeehah Khan said: “Healing from systemic violence begins when our government acknowledges and acts to facilitate relief for its people from structures of oppression. Today’s vote has established California as a leader in combatting all forms of discrimination plaguing our diverse state, whether it exists between communities or within communities.”

She added, “As we celebrate alongside our coalition partners, the bill’s sponsor, and cosponsors, we urge Governor Newsom to enact SB 403 and make history in America by passing anti-caste bias legislation. We thank Senator Wahab for her leadership and for standing by one of our most vulnerable populations.”

Samir Kalra, managing director at Hindu American Foundation, which opposed the legislation, told indica: “We were deeply disappointed to see the Senate pass SB 403 yesterday. While several significant amendments were made in the Assembly, SB 403 is still a discriminatory bill that will necessitate the denial of fundamental civil rights of only South Asian Californians, the vast majority of whom are of Indian origin. It will weaponize caste, a racially-loaded term, to target, single out, and racially profile Californians of South Asian descent. As the bill now goes to the Governor’s desk, we’re hopeful that Governor Newsom will veto the bill and uphold California’s constitution and pluralistic ethos.”

Mat McDermott, senior director HAF told indica, “We hope that the Governor will ultimately veto the bill. Though caste being included under ancestry is an improvement from where the bill started, the concerns we’ve had all along about Hindus being stigmatized and singled out is already happening, at least on social media.”

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