Mon. Dec 4th, 2023
Advocates of California's bill to ban class discrimination find the veto heartbreaking

Written by Kanishka Singh

(Reuters) – Supporters had hoped {that a} California invoice handed by the state Legislature to ban historic class discrimination would turn out to be the primary statewide regulation of its variety in america that would have a ripple impact in different states. Nonetheless, Governor Gavin Newsom’s veto has left them unhappy.

Opponents of the invoice welcomed Newsom’s motion and mentioned his veto averted stigmatizing a whole minority group — the South Asian and Hindu communities — as discriminatory.

The invoice itself, in addition to the lead-up to its passage by state lawmakers and vetoes, noticed intense debate over the problem in California and past.

Anjana Chatterjee, a researcher on the College of California, Berkeley, mentioned caste discrimination has a “detrimental impact” affecting South Asian communities in america, and that the California invoice “acknowledges the basic and elementary proper to equality for all who targets caste.”

Activists who supported the invoice started a starvation strike in early September to demand or not it’s signed into regulation.

In vetoing the invoice, formally known as Senate Invoice 403 or SB 403, Newsom cited present legal guidelines that already prohibit lineage discrimination, which he mentioned makes the invoice “pointless.”

The American Hindu Basis, an advocacy group that opposed the invoice, agreed with Newsom and hailed the veto as a serious win.

“Any discrimination primarily based on ‘caste’ not solely violates Hindu teachings, but in addition violates present state and federal regulation. The battle over SB-403 has at all times been about one of the best answer to any discrimination inside a group, not whether or not such protections are wanted.” mentioned Sohag Shukla, govt director of the Hindu Basis of America.

US discrimination legal guidelines prohibit discrimination primarily based on descent, however don’t explicitly prohibit classism. The California invoice focused the caste system in South Asian and Hindu immigrant communities by including caste as a protected class to the state’s present anti-discrimination legal guidelines.

The caste system is among the many oldest types of strict social stratification on the earth. It dates again 1000’s of years and gives many privileges to the higher courses however oppresses the decrease courses. The Dalit group belongs to the bottom rung of the Hindu caste system and its members are handled as “untouchables.” India banned caste discrimination greater than 70 years in the past.

Opponents of caste discrimination say that it’s no totally different from different types of discrimination comparable to racism, and subsequently needs to be banned.

“I grew up in Orange County, the place I used to be bullied due to my caste all through my education,” mentioned Thenmozhi Soundararajan, govt director of Equality Labs, a Dalit civil rights group primarily based in California.

“Californians who’re oppressed by caste are right here, and we deserve workplaces and faculties freed from discrimination and violence,” Sundararajan mentioned in April testimony in assist of the invoice.

“It’s heartbreaking to have a veto from the governor,” Equality Labs mentioned.

The Migration Coverage Institute mentioned late final 12 months that the Indian group consists of about 4.9 million American residents who had been born in India or report Indian ancestry or ancestry. About a million of those reside in California.

The invoice has been supported by quite a few human rights teams such because the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), Amnesty Worldwide, and MeToo Worldwide.

Opponents of the invoice mentioned that since US legal guidelines already prohibit discrimination primarily based on lineage, the laws is meaningless and broadly stigmatizes complete Hindu and South Asian communities.

The unique model of the invoice was revised after some opposition. The revised model included caste inside “lineage” fairly than as a separate class. It was authorised by the California State Meeting in late August and by the state Senate in early September by a close to unanimous vote.

“Creating a wholly separate class and a regulation that applies solely to minority communities is in opposition to our constitutional requirements,” mentioned Sameer Kalra, managing director of the American Hindu Basis.

The invoice outlined caste as “the perceived place of a person in a system of social stratification primarily based on inherited standing.”

(Reporting by Kanishka Singh in Washington; Modifying by Mary Milliken, Grant McCall and Mark Porter)

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