California Governor Gavin Newsom has vetoed a bill that sought to explicitly ban caste discrimination in the state. The bill aimed to categorize caste as a subset of ancestry in civil rights statutes, providing legal recourse against instances of caste-based discrimination.
Newsom justified his decision by stating that California laws already prohibit discrimination based on caste. While some groups, including individuals of Indian origin, supported the bill, others opposed it, arguing that it unfairly portrayed an entire community.
Caste discrimination, which originated in India and is associated with Hinduism, has spread to other South Asian countries and religions. In Silicon Valley, more individuals who have faced caste-based oppression are speaking out about their experiences.
The bill received support from civil rights groups, faith-based organizations, and legal scholars. However, it faced vocal opposition from some Indian Americans and Hindu organizations.
Despite the veto, Dalit advocacy organization Equality Labs considers the bill a win. They acknowledge the progress made by caste-oppressed communities in fighting discrimination.
Seattle made history earlier this year by becoming the first US city to ban caste discrimination. Additionally, several educational institutions have included caste protections in their nondiscrimination policies.
The issue of caste discrimination has also been highlighted through the 2020 lawsuit in which California sued tech giant Cisco and two engineers for allegedly discriminating against an Indian employee based on his lower caste.
Controversies surrounding the portrayal of Hinduism in California textbooks have also opened discussions about the caste system and its representation.
While the bill to explicitly ban caste discrimination may not have passed, the conversation surrounding this issue continues to evolve. The veto has brought attention to the existing laws and protections against discrimination based on caste in California, as well as the ongoing efforts to address this issue at various levels of society.