Senate Bill 826, signed into law by Gov. Jerry Brown in 2018, requires that all such boards in the state include at least one woman by the end of this year. The requirements increase in two years, when boards with five or more members must have at least two women, and larger boards must have at least three.
The lawsuit, filed Tuesday by Judicial Watch on behalf of three taxpayers, claims such requirements violate the state constitution.
“The legislation’s quota system for female representation on corporate boards employs express gender classifications,” according to the suit. “As a result, SB 826 is immediately suspect and presumptively invalid and triggers strict scrutiny review.”
The suit claims that since the law is unconstitutional, “any expenditure of taxpayer funds or taxpayer-financed resources enforcing or otherwise carrying out the quota system is illegal.”
The authors of the legislation, Sen. Hannah-Beth Jackson, D-Santa Barbara, and Senate President Pro Tem Toni Atkins, D-San Diego, defended the law.
“While I certainly respect the constitutional right of anyone to challenge the law in our courts, it is disappointing that this conservative right-wing group is more invested in spending thousands of dollars on a questionable lawsuit than supporting policy that improves business’ profits and boosts our economy,” Jackson said.
Atkins called the lawsuit an effort “to try to erode the landmark progress our state is making not only for women, but for business and our economy.”
According to state officials, the legislation applies to more than 500 corporations in California.
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