Senators Jones and Grove Urge Veto of Discriminatory SB 403

Hindu community remains divided with many in opposition to the measure

Senate Minority Leader Brian W. Jones (R-San Diego) and Senator Shannon Grove (R-Bakersfield) are calling on the governor to veto Senate Bill 403 (Wahab), a discriminatory bill that will 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.

Click here to read the veto request letter.

“We’ve received countless calls from constituents and Californians across the state in opposition to the measure. It’s my job to represent their concerns in Sacramento,” said Leader Jones. “We don’t have a caste system in America or California, so why would we reference it in law, especially if caste and ancestry discrimination are already illegal? We are calling on Governor Newsom to do the right thing and veto this discriminatory, divisive, and unnecessary bill.”  

SB 403 has divided the South Asian community and the Legislature with many Hindu organizations strongly opposed to the bill. Notably, no concrete evidence or data has been provided to show extensive caste discrimination in California. The oft-quoted survey by Equality Labs has been deemed unscientific and the only legal case of caste discrimination in California was dismissed by the Santa Clara Superior County Court.

“SB 403 will encourage the discrimination and profiling of our South East Asian community, especially those who embrace the Hindu religion,” said Senator Grove. "The bill's definition of “perceived position” in a system of social stratification based on inherited attributes is so vague that it will subject businesses to baseless charges of discrimination, making them subject to predatory PAGA lawsuits. Workers can claim discrimination based on their hair color, ancestry, or marital status under this broad definition.” 

Below are excerpts from the letter:

           “…By adding the term ‘caste’ to the definition of ‘ancestry,’ this bill puts our state on track to add the first and only explicitly racially discriminatory term to California law, resulting in the denial of constitutional rights of equal protection and due process for South Asians, and Hindus in particular.

           …Despite a lack of evidence, SB 403 proceeds on the presumption that South Asians are inherently bigoted. To not foresee that some employers will now be wary of hiring South Asians, thereby impacting businesses and innovation in the state, is irresponsible.

Beyond the discriminatory intent and impact of SB 403, the definitions of ‘caste’ and ‘inherited social status’ in SB 403 are so overly broad that it will open a variety of interpretations and leave millions of Californians vulnerable and subject to accusations of discrimination.

… For these reasons, we respectfully request your veto on SB 403 which will have disastrous consequences for California for years to come.”