Chinese-Americans Can’t Block CA Shark Fin Ban

By BARBARA LEONARD, Courthouse News Service,
Wednesday, August 28, 2013

(CN) – California can continue its ban on shark fins, despite claims from Chinese-Americans that the law is racist, the 9th Circuit ruled.
The Shark Fin Law, codified as Sections 2021 and 2021.5 of California Fish and Game Code, became effective in 2012 with the purported aim of promoting shark conservation and health interests.
Lawmakers pointed to the fact that shark finning, a practice in which sharks are caught, their fins cut off, and the carcasses dumped back into the water, causes tens of millions of sharks to die each year.
Though the law also spoke of health concerns related to human ingestion of mercury-filled shark fin, Chinese-American groups claimed that the law was a pretext to discriminate against them.
In a July 2012 complaint, the Chinatown Neighborhood Association and Asian Americans for Political Advancement said shark fin soup is a cultural delicacy and a centerpiece in Chinese celebrations as a “traditional symbol of respect, honor and appreciation” served at birthdays, weddings and other festivals.
U.S. District Judge Phyllis Hamilton refused to issue an injunction in January, finding that the groups “made no showing that any member of the Legislature intended to ‘target’ Chinese-Americans.”
That order noted how only a small percentage of Chinese-Americans regularly eat shark fin soup, and that roughly half the Chinese-American population actually supports the law
Indeed one of the law’s sponsors, Assemlyman Paul Fong, is Chinese-American.
A three-judge panel of the 9th Circuit heard an appeal for the injunction earlier this month, but sided with the state in an unpublished ruling Tuesday.
“The District Court did not abuse its discretion in determining that Chinatown failed to prove a likelihood of irreparable harm,” the panel found. “Chinatown offered only evidence suggesting that business owners would suffer some economic harm from operation of the Shark Fin Law.”
California’s law also appears facially neutral, the court found, finding no evidence that legislators intended all along “to discriminate against Chinese Americans rather than to accomplish the Law’s stated humanitarian, conservationist, and health goals.”

Source: Courthouse News Service


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