As caste bill meets defeat, Hindu Americans on both sides make their voices heard

by | Oct 11, 2023 | Religion

(RNS) — On Saturday (Oct. 7), California Gov. Gavin Newsom vetoed a bill intended to outlaw discrimination on the basis of ancestry, adding a definition of caste to the list of protected categories under California’s existing civil rights laws.“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,” said Newsom in his veto statement, calling the bill “unnecessary” because existing civil rights law prohibits discrimination based on race, religion, ancestry, national origin and other characteristics.
The veto appeared to end — for now — a debate that has raged at least since February, when state Sen. Aisha Wahab, a Muslim who represents Fresno, introduced the measure, Senate Bill 403, eliciting fierce opposition from Hindus who claimed it would increase discrimination against their entire community. Other Hindus rallied just as passionately in support of the bill: Newsom’s veto ended a hunger strike by activists hoping to put pressure on him to sign it. 
But both sides say the fight over SB403 has just begun, and as for the veto, Hindus on both sides count the moment as a win.
“SB-403 forced our community to find its voice,” said Suhag Shukla, executive director of the Hindu American Foundation, which led the opposition …

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