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California governor must explain how caste-based discrimination is prohibited in US

The International Commission for Dalit Rights (ICDR) statement condemning California Governor’s veto of historic bill combating caste-based discrimination:
The International Commission for Dalit Rights (ICDR) is deeply disappointed by California Governor Gavin Newsom’s Oct 7 decision to veto SB403, a historic bill that would have explicitly clarified that caste-based discrimination is illegal in the state of California. Authored by State Senator Aisha Wahab, the bill was easily passed in both houses of the California State Legislature.
ICDR and members of the National Coalition Against Caste Discrimination, together with scholars and civil rights groups, sent a letter to Gov. Newsom on October 4, urging him to sign SB403. The letter stated that “There is much documented evidence of dominant-caste individuals in the United States excluding, exploiting, bullying, harassing and discriminating against people from marginalized castes such as Dalits in private and public settings such as employment and housing.”
Legislation like SB403 would have been a historic step forward for civil rights in California, by explicitly adding “caste” under the category of ancestry and including definitions of caste in the Unruh Civil Rights Act, Fair Employment and Housing Act, and Education Code.
In his statement, Gov. Newsom argued that SB403 was unnecessary “because discrimination based on caste is already prohibited under … existing categories.” However, we have witnessed first-hand that many victims of caste-based discrimination in the United States do not report these events because of fear of not being heard or understood by people in power, who may not be familiar with caste. Explicitly including caste in civil rights legislation would have paved a path forward for individuals facing caste-based discrimination in the state of California. We call on the Governor’s office to provide a complete legal definition of how caste-based discrimination is already prohibited under existing categories.
We are heartened to see that the movement for SB403 brought together a wide range of civil society organizations and coalitions, such as Californians for Caste Equity, Equality Labs, America Against Caste Discrimination, and the country’s leading bar associations. ICDR and the National Coalition Against Caste Discrimination are proud to have added our voices to this multi-faith, multi-racial movement committed to equity and justice for all. Fighting caste-based discrimination is not about targeting any specific religious community; this is a civil rights struggle that affects many different religious and ethnic communities. We will continue to promote the rights of Dalit and other marginalized communities in the United States and globally through advocacy, research, and leadership and community development.



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