Bill that would have banned caste discrimination vetoed

by MMC
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SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) — Gov. Gavin Newsom vetoed a bill Saturday that would have made California the first U.S. state to ban discrimination based on caste.


What do you want to know

  • Caste is a division of people related to birth or descent
  • Those from the lowest strata of the caste system, known as Dalits, are pushing for legal protections across the country.
  • In March, Sen. Aisha Wahab, the first Muslim-Afghan American elected to the California Legislature, introduced the bill.
  • Earlier this year, Seattle became the first U.S. city to ban caste discrimination. Fresno became the first city in California to ban caste-based discrimination.

Caste is a division of people related to birth or descent. Those from the lowest strata of the caste system, known as Dalits, are pushing for legal protections in California and beyond. They say there is a need to protect them from bias in housing, education and the technology sector – where they hold key roles.

Earlier this year, Seattle became the first U.S. city to add caste to its anti-discrimination laws. On September 28, Fresno became the second U.S. city and the first in California to ban caste-based discrimination by adding caste and indigeneity to its municipal code.

In his message, Newsom called the bill “unnecessary,” explaining that California “already prohibits discrimination based on sex, race, color, religion, ancestry, national origin, disability, gender identity, sexual orientation, and other characteristics, and that state law specifies that these civil rights protections are to be interpreted liberally.

“Because caste-based discrimination is already prohibited in these existing categories, this bill is unnecessary,” he said in the statement.

A 2016 United Nations report says at least 250 million people worldwide still face caste discrimination in Asia, Africa, the Middle East and the Pacific, as well as various diaspora communities . Caste systems are found among Buddhists, Christians, Hindus, Jains, Muslims and Sikhs.

In March, Senator Aisha Wahab, the first Muslim and Afghan American elected to the California Legislature, introduced the bill. The California law would have included caste as a subcategory of “ethnic origin” – a category protected by the state’s anti-discrimination laws.

Opponents, including some Hindu groups, called the bill “unconstitutional” and said it would unfairly target Hindus and people of Indian origin. The issue has divided the Native American community.

Earlier this week, Republican Senators Brian Jones and Shannon Grove called on Newsom to veto the bill, which they said “will not only target and racially profile South Asian Californians, but will endanger others California residents and businesses and will jeopardize the security of our state. innovate.

Jones said he has received many calls from opposing Californians.

“We don’t have a caste system in America or California, so why would we refer to it in law, especially if caste and ancestry are already illegal,” he said in a statement.

Grove said the law could potentially open businesses to unnecessary or frivolous lawsuits.

Supporters of the bill launched a hunger strike in early September to pass the law. Thenmozhi Soundararajan, executive director of Equality Labs, the Oakland-based Dalit rights group that has led the movement to end caste discrimination nationwide, said the goal of the fast is to end caste bias in all areas, including employment and housing.

“We are doing this to refocus our sacred commitment to human dignity, reconciliation and freedom and to remind the Governor and the State of the challenges we will face if this bill is not signed into law,” she declared.

A 2016 survey by Equality Labs of 1,500 South Asians in the United States showed that 67% of Dalits who responded said they had been treated unfairly because of their caste.

A 2020 survey of Native Americans by the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace found that caste discrimination was reported by 5% of respondents. While 53% of foreign-born Hindu American Indians report affiliation with a caste group, only 34% of U.S.-born Hindu American Indians report doing the same.

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