On Saturday, October 7, California Governor Gavin Newsom vetoed SB-403, the so-called California Caste Bill, on the grounds that discrimination based on caste was already prohibited under California law and the bill was therefore unnecessary. 

In response to the news, the Hindu American Foundation issued the following statements:

Samir Kalra, HAF Managing Director stated:

“Today, we at the Hindu American Foundation join South Asians across California and the Hindu American community in offering our heartfelt appreciation to California Governor Gavin Newsom for his historically important veto of SB-403. This is a victory for the civil rights of all Californians.

With the stroke of his pen, Governor Newsom has averted a civil rights and constitutional disaster that would have put a target on hundreds of thousands of Californians simply because of their ethnicity or their religious identity, as well as create a slippery slope of  facially discriminatory laws. We thank Governor Newsom for listening to the thousands of voices that contacted his office and seeing that SB-403 was premised on racist rhetoric, a baseless lawsuit, egregious Civil Rights Department misconduct, false claims about the Hindu religion and South Asian community at large, and the self-serving, methodologically flawed, caste survey by Equality Labs. 

We thank political leaders of both parties, in all levels of government, who demonstrated moral courage in opposing this racist bill. Whether by passing local resolutions opposing discriminatory legislation, working with HAF to remove facially discriminatory language, outright voting against the bill or vetoing SB-403 — we will never forget that you defended the Hindu and South Asian communities at a critical moment in California history.”

Suhag Shukla, HAF Executive Director stated:  

“We at HAF have always said that any discrimination on the basis of ‘caste’ violates not only Hindu teachings, but also existing state and federal law. The fight over SB-403 has always been about the best solution for any intra-community discrimination, not whether such protections are needed. 

SB-403 forced our community to find its voice. The months spent educating the community about their rights, providing trainings and tools to effectively advocate as constituents, peacefully assembling in protest, offering testimonies at the Statehouse, writing countless letters to legislators and Governor Newsom, and meeting with numerous offices have all paid off. We’re grateful to Hindu Americans across the state who have shown tremendous resilience and to our allies for coming together like never before.

To all those who have suffered discrimination, we stand with you. We hope to move forward together, educating our community to live the values of our shared traditions that insist on equality based on teachings of oneness of all of existence. We hope to move forward without hatred or malice to bring together our community which SB-403 so unnecessarily divided.”