A challenge to the constitutionality of a California law requiring corporations to include women on their boards is heading to trial on Wednesday.
The two sides will present evidence to a judge in the Los Angeles Superior Court in a trial expected to last three weeks. The taxpayer challenge brought by conservative legal group Judicial Watch argues that the 2018 law contradicts the state constitution’s equal protection clause.
“This trial essentially puts ‘critical theory’ on the dock for a discriminatory gender quota mandate that is blatantly unlawful and unconstitutional,” said Tom Fitton, president of Judicial Watch.
WOMEN BELONG IN THE BOARDROOM — BUT NOT BECAUSE THE GOVERNMENT FORCES IT
Under the law, public corporations must include two or three people “who self-identify [their] gender as a woman” on their boards of directors depending on company size by Dec. 31 or face fines.
Former Gov. Jerry Brown signed the law, also known as Senate Bill 826, requiring publicly traded companies in California to include at least one person who identifies as a woman on the board by the end of 2019 and more by the end of this year. Brown publicly worried at the time that it may not hold up under legal challenges.
“S.B. 826 would upend decades of settled constitutional law that prohibits discrimination based on sex. Even Gov. Brown, in signing the law, worried that it is unconstitutional,” Fitton said. “We hope this trial will vindicate the rule of law.”
Hannah-Beth Jackson, a former state senator and one of the bill’s authors, said the claim that the law allows discrimination against men is "incredibly ironic and hypocritical."
“Any time you try to make significant change to the status quo, the powers that have been institutionalized to this kind of discrimination are likely to fight back,” Jackson told the Associated Press.
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The California bill was the first of its kind and prompted other states, including Washington, Massachusetts, and New Jersey, to pass or introduce similar bills. Since the bill's passage, the number of boards with women members jumped from 17% to 30%.