Thu, 01 Jun 2023

SACRAMENTO, California: In another blow to the state's push to diversify corporate leadership, a California court judge has ruled that a state law requiring public companies to include women on their boards is unconstitutional.

Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Maureen Duffy-Lewis issued the decision this week in favor of three California taxpayers who sought to block enforcement of the law.

The plaintiffs were represented by conservative legal group Judicial Watch, which was also involved in another challenge that recently struck down a California law mandating board diversity based on race and sexual orientation.

In a statement, Judicial Watch President Tom Fitton said, "The radical Left's unprecedented attacks on anti-discrimination law has suffered another stinging defeat."

Meanwhile, a spokesperson for the California secretary of state said the office is reviewing the judgment.

In 2019, three taxpayers challenged the law, claiming it amounted to sex discrimination in violation of the state's constitution.

At trial, California's secretary of state had defended the law, arguing that the state believes in gender diversity on boards and that the law aims to address a historic lack of women on boards.

Duffy-Lewis ruled that the law violated the equal protection clause of California's constitution, adding that the secretary of state had failed to show the law was narrowly tailored or that it was meant to remedy "specific, purposeful, intentional and unlawful discrimination."

Former California state Senator Hannah-Beth Jackson, the bill's author, said she believes the state will appeal the verdict and prevail.

Another taxpayer challenge to a similar California law requiring boards to include directors who self-identify as a member of an "underrepresented community," which includes Asian, Black, Latino, Native American and Pacific Islander individuals, as well as those who are gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgender, was recently won by Judicial Watch.

Jennifer Rubin, an attorney who counsels corporations on social and governance issues, said, "The prudent course of action is for the legislature to go back and try to craft these laws in a way that is going to withstand scrutiny."

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