In his veto message, Newsom said the bill is unnecessary because caste discrimination is already prohibited under existing civil rights protections that “shall be liberally construed.”
“In California, we believe everyone deserves to be treated with dignity and respect, no matter who they are, where they come from, who they love, or where they live,” Newsom said.
After the bill passed, supporters launched a hunger strike to put pressure on Newsom to sign it, holding rallies outside the Capitol.
Opponents contended that the legislation will stigmatize Hindus and people from South Asia, where caste — a social hierarchy in which one’s group is inherited — is historically most closely associated. Representatives for the Hindu American Foundation had previously promised to challenge it in court. The veto is a victory for national Hindu groups such as the Hindu American Foundation and the Coalition of Hindus of North America, which fiercely lobbied lawmakers to oppose the bill.
A pair of Republican state senators, Brian Jones and Shannon Grove, wrote a letter to Newsom on Tuesday asking him to veto the bill. The senators claimed that the bill would “not only target and racially profile South Asian Californians, but will put other California residents and businesses at risk and jeopardize our state’s innovative edge.”
The bill also received pushback from two of Wahab’s progressive colleagues in the Assembly, and was amended to make the word “caste” less prominent in the law.
Seattle was the first city to pass a caste discrimination ordinance earlier this year, and Fresno last month was the first city in California to do so.