- The Washington Times - Monday, May 16, 2022

A Los Angeles judge has struck down California’s first-in-the-nation law requiring corporate boards to adhere to gender quotas, calling the measure unconstitutional.

Superior Court Judge Maureen Duffy-Lewis said in the Friday verdict that the 2018 law violated the equal protection clause of the California Constitution, handing a win to Judicial Watch, which filed the challenge in 2019 on behalf of three residents.

Judicial Watch president Tom Fitton said that the court “eviscerated California’s unconstitutional gender quota mandate.”

“The radical Left’s unprecedented attacks on anti-discrimination law has suffered another stinging defeat,” Mr. Fitton said. “Thankfully, California courts have 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 the Left’s pernicious efforts to undo anti-discrimination protections.”

The law known as Senate Bill 826 made it mandatory for publicly held companies to have as many as three directors who self-identify as female by 2021, depending on the size of the board.

So far this year, the California attorney general’s office is 0-2 when it comes to defending laws establishing quotas for corporate boards.

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Last month, Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Terry Green granted summary judgment to Judicial Watch on Assembly Bill 979, the 2020 law requiring corporate boards to include a certain number of minority or LGBTQ directors.

The law on female corporate directors was signed at the height of the #MeToo uproar by then-Gov. Jerry Brown, who said he wanted to send a signal while acknowledging that the bill had “potential flaws that indeed may prove fatal to its ultimate implementation.”

The law does not apply only to biological females, according to the California Secretary of State’s Office.

“A female is an individual who self-identifies her gender as a woman, without regard to the individual’s designated sex at birth,” said the office on its “frequently asked questions” page.

California corporate boards that violated the law were subject to hefty fines, but the California Secretary of State’s office testified at the non-jury trial that ended in February that no penalties had been imposed.

In addition, more than half of the state’s corporations failed to comply last year with the requirement to report the number of female board members.

Supporters of the law argued that it had helped increase the number of female board members.

In the three years since the California law was passed, women board directors jumped from 14.6% to more than 32%, according to a February report by researchers at Clemson University and the University of Arizona.

Women held 27% of the seats on all boards in 2021, up from 24% in 2020 and the highest threshold ever, according to an April report from the Women’s Business Collaborative and 50/50 Women on Boards.

Other states followed by introducing similar laws on corporate gender quotas after the California measure became the first signed into law. In 2020, Washington state passed a law requiring public corporations to have a “gender-diverse board.”

Corporations with six or more directors were required to have at least three female-identifying board members by the end of 2021. Boards were also allowed to add seats to meet the requirements.

This story is based in part on wire service reports.

• Valerie Richardson can be reached at vrichardson@washingtontimes.com.

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