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California Governor Gavin Newsom Vetoes Caste Discrimination Bill, Halting Anti-Caste Activists’ Efforts

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In a recent development, California Governor Gavin Newsom has vetoed Senate Bill 403, also known as the ‘caste discrimination bill'.[0] The bill aimed to explicitly ban caste discrimination in the state by including caste in the definition of ancestry, making it illegal to discriminate on the basis of caste.[1] Governor Newsom justified his decision by stating that California already prohibits discrimination based on various characteristics, including race, religion, and gender identity, among others, and therefore, the new law was unnecessary.

This move by Governor Newsom comes despite pressure from anti-caste activists who launched a hunger strike and held rallies outside the Capitol.[2] They were hoping that California would become the first state in the nation to enact a ban on caste discrimination. However, Newsom's veto has put a halt to their efforts.

Seattle was the first city to pass a caste discrimination ordinance earlier this year, followed by Fresno last month, becoming the first city in California to do so. These measures aimed to address the issue of caste discrimination, which is a hierarchical system of social status based on one's ancestry.[3] While caste discrimination is officially banned in India and Nepal, some individuals belonging to the lowest-ranked group, Dalits, claim they continue to face bias even after moving to the U.S.

Opponents of the bill argue that it would stigmatize Hindus and individuals from South Asia, where caste is historically most closely associated. They claim that such laws would unfairly target the Hindu community as perpetrators of discrimination. Hindu nationalist groups in America have been particularly vocal in their opposition to the bill and have promised to challenge it in court.

Governor Newsom's veto has been praised by groups like the Hindu American Foundation and the Coalition of Hindus of North America, who vehemently lobbied against the bill. They believe that the bill was based on racist rhetoric, false claims about the Hindu religion, and a flawed caste survey conducted by Equality Labs. They argue that existing civil rights protections in California already cover discrimination based on caste, and therefore, the new law was unnecessary.

While supporters of the bill express their disappointment with Newsom's decision, they vow to continue fighting against caste discrimination. They argue that the veto is a setback for justice and civil rights in the United States.

The debate surrounding caste discrimination continues to be contentious, with opinions within the Hindu diaspora sharply divided. However, with Fresno becoming the second American city to outlaw caste-based discrimination, the issue remains at the forefront of the conversation. It remains to be seen how this debate will evolve and whether other states will follow in the footsteps of Seattle and Fresno in addressing caste discrimination through legislation.

0. “Breaking News: Gov Newsom Vetoes California Caste Bill” India Currents, 8 Oct. 2023, https://indiacurrents.com/breaking-news-gov-newsom-vetoes-california-caste-bill/

1. “After Seattle, Fresno Becomes Second US City to Ban Caste Discrimination” The Wire, 2 Oct. 2023, https://thewire.in/caste/after-seattle-fresno-becomes-second-us-city-to-ban-caste-discrimination

2. “Calif. Gov. Newsom Vetoes Bill That Bans Caste Discrimination Calling it ‘Unnecessary’” American Kahani, 7 Oct. 2023, https://americankahani.com/california/calif-gov-newsom-vetoes-bill-that-bans-caste-discrimination-calling-it-unnecessary

3. “Gavin Newsom vetoes bill to make California first state to end caste-based discrimination” Sacramento Bee, 7 Oct. 2023, https://www.sacbee.com/news/politics-government/capitol-alert/article280217779.html

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