An anti-caste discrimination bill that seeks to combat caste discrimination and strengthen protections for marginalised communities across the state was passed by the California State Assembly. The bill was passed by the Assembly on August 28 with 50 votes in its favour and only three against it. Now, it will head to Governor Gavin Newsom for his signature to make it into law. Through this, California became the first US state to add caste as a protected category in its anti-discrimination laws.
The new legislation will revise California’s Unruh Civil Rights Act, Education, and Housing codes with an addition of caste as a protected category under “ancestry.”
The historic anti-caste discrimination bill was first introduced by State Senator Aisha Wahab. Subsequently, several caste equity civil rights activists and organizations from across the country have come in support of the bill.
“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,” Wahab said in a tweet.
Thenmozhi Soundararajan of Equality Labs, one of the organisations that works to recognise caste-based discrimination in the United States said: “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. Caste-oppressed people have organized for over twenty years so we could have lives free from violent attacks and discrimination; now, the California Assembly has voted decisively to bring us closer to victory,” Thenmozhi added.