California becomes first US state to ban caste bias: Assembly passes bill


The anti-caste discrimination bill as passed by the Assembly now needs Governor Gavin Newsom’s signature to become law

Our Bureau

Sacramento, CA

An anti-caste discrimination bill has been passed by the California State Assembly that seeks to arrest caste discrimination and strengthen protections for marginalized communities across the State.

“Thank you to all the Assembly members who voted in support of SB 403 today. We are protecting people from a long-standing form of discrimination with SB 403,” Ms. Wahab said in a tweet.

The bill as passed by the Assembly now heads to Governor Gavin Newsom for his signature to make it into law, making California the first U.S. state to add caste as a protected category in its anti-discrimination laws.

The Coalition of Hindus of North America (CoHNA) described it as a black day in California history.

The passage of this bill by the California Assembly was introduced by State Senator Aisha Wahab and supported by several caste equity civil rights activists and organizations in the US.

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

“The Assembly Vote is a win for the ages. After conducting over 700 advocacy meetings across the entire state of California the people have spoken resoundingly for caste equity protections. As a Californian who has endured caste my whole life I know the struggles and adversity caste-oppressed Californians have unjustly faced firsthand,” said Thenmozhi Soundararajan, executive director of Equality Labs.

In a statement, CoHNA said the passing of a bill that is not facially neutral and written to specifically target Hindu Americans is the latest in a long line of unjust bills, like the Asian Exclusion Act, which was popular at the time of their passing and was used to target minorities of color.

“This bill will be no different and is indeed worse since it ignored the mounting body of evidence about the overreach of CRD in the Cisco lawsuit, the flawed data from a hate group that underpinned the whole effort, the championing of this bill by foreign actors and the rising numbers of Dalit and Bahujan voices speaking against it,” it said.

Amar Shergill, California Democratic Chair of the Progressive Caucus said there is broad consensus in California among Democrats and Republicans that discrimination, in any form, is unacceptable.

Pooja Ren, Hindus for Caste Equity said as a Dalit Hindu, she wants to make sure that they can make workplaces safe for all workers, as well as all schools for their children.

Tarina Mand, South Asian Bar Association Civil Rights Taskforce said California has taken a bold step to dismantle caste discrimination in a call for equity and a recognition that deep-seated biases can be passed on in a community for generations and across continents.

Dalit activist Deelip Mhaske of the Foundation For Human Horizon, said amidst the shifting tides of the world, California’s adoption of the anti-caste discrimination bill stands as a groundbreaking testament, echoing far beyond its borders.

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