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Los Angeles Superior Court Strikes Down Requirement for Ethnic and LGBTQ Diversity on Corporate Boar

Updated: Mar 3, 2023

The Los Angeles County Superior Court last week struck down California Assembly Bill 979, which imposed requirements for boards of directors to include minimum numbers of members from “underrepresented communities” - either ethnic minorities or LGBTQ individuals

Last Friday, April 1, 2022, the Los Angeles County Superior Court of California granted a motion for summary judgment filed by the plaintiffs in Robin Crest, et al v. Alex Padilla, a suit which sought to prevent Alex Padilla, in his capacity as California’s Secretary of State, from enforcing the requirements of Assembly Bill 979 and to have the court declare the law in violation of the Constitution of California. The bill, which was signed into law by Governor Gavin Newsom in 2020, imposed a requirement for corporate boards to have certain minimum numbers of directors from certain ethnic or LGBTQ communities, defined by the bill as “underrepresented communities.” A “director from an underrepresented community” is defined in the bill as “an individual who self-identifies as Black, African American, Hispanic, Latino, Asian, Pacific Islander, Native American, Native Hawaiian, or Alaska Native, or who self-identifies as gay, lesbian, bisexual, or transgender.” A lawsuit was filed on October 2, 2020 by Judicial Watch, a nonprofit organization that, according to its mission statement, “advocates high standards of ethics and morality in our nation’s public life and seeks to ensure that political and judicial officials do not abuse the powers entrusted to them by the American people,” on behalf of several individuals in California. The suit alleged that the bill violated the principle of equal protection under the law by discriminating on the basis of race, gender, and sexuality. As put in the plaintiff’s argument for summary judgment, “Laws that explicitly distinguish between individuals on racial or ethnic, sexual preference, and transgender status grounds fall within the core of the prohibition of the equal protection clause.”

The court ultimately ruled in favor of the plaintiffs. According to Tom Fitton, president of Judicial Watch, “In its ruling today, the court upheld the core American value of equal protection under the law. Judicial Watch’s taxpayer clients are heroes for standing up for civil rights against… efforts to undo anti-discrimination protections.”

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