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Mass. House unanimously passes CROWN Act to ban race-based discrimination

Steve Ultrino
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  Last week the House of Representatives passed (155-0) Bill H.4554, An Act prohibiting discrimination based on natural and protective hairstyles – better known as Massachusetts’s version of The CROWN Act (Creating a Respectful and Open World for Natural Hair). The bill was filed by State Representatives Steven Ultrino and Chyna Tyler with the endorsement of the national CROWN Coalition in efforts to prohibit race-based hair discrimination throughout the Commonwealth. The Malden House delegation stood united in support of this critical legislation, with State Representatives Paul Donato and Kate Lipper-Garabedian voting alongside other members to pass the CROWN Act in Massachusetts.

  The bill seeks to define natural and protective hairstyles in statute, as well as prohibit any form of discrimination and policy restricting those hairstyles in schools, employment, housing and business settings. This bill would also expand criminal law prohibiting assault and battery for purposes of intimidation to include natural and protective hairstyles, while adding natural and protective hairstyles to hate crime data collection and reporting requirements. The bill now goes to the Massachusetts Senate.

  Shortly following the bill’s passage in the Massachusetts House, the United States House of Representatives followed suit by passing the federal version of the legislation (235-189). “This is an historic moment for Massachusetts. The success of the CROWN Act on the federal level speaks to its significant impact but also shows how this is a shared experience amongst many across the nation. I am beyond delighted that the CROWN Act passed unanimously in the House, and words cannot describe how great it is to see the years of hard work from advocates, staff, legislators and community members bear fruit,” said Ultrino. “We have sent a clear message: race-based discrimination has no place in our Commonwealth. With our votes, we ensured that a person’s racial and cultural identity will no longer be an obstacle to their education, professional career, and path to success. I am confident that the bill will be well received in the Senate with the support of Senators Gomez and DiDomenico. Lastly, I would like to thank Speaker Mariano, Chair Michlewitz, Chair Day and Representative Tyler for their support and guidance throughout this journey.”

  “Today, marks a great day for Black and Brown communities throughout the Commonwealth,” said State Representative Chynah Tyler, who is chair of the Massachusetts Black and Latino Legislative Caucus. “Black women are more policed in the workplace than any other racial or ethnic group based on the way they choose to wear their hair. The passing of this legislation gets us one step closer to ending a barrier for communities of color in Massachusetts.”

  “I am proud to join the unanimous House in passing the CROWN Act,” said Lipper-Garabedian. “When enacted, this legislation will end racial discrimination against natural and culturally significant hairstyles. I’m particularly mindful of the importance of this legislation for our young people who should feel embraced and empowered in their identity – from the classroom to the corporate boardroom.”

  “The passing of the CROWN Act is an important step in ensuring that workplaces, schools, and places of housing across the commonwealth are creating safe and non-discriminatory environments,” said Donato. “These racist practices, often targeted at black women, are a continued attempt to override our anti-discrimination laws. We must remain committed to tearing down the barriers that people of color overwhelmingly face in their professional and personal lives.”

  With overwhelming support and dedication from the national CROWN Coalition, Massachusetts Appleseed Center for Law and Justice, ACLU Massachusetts, New England Blacks in Philanthropy, and many others, Massachusetts is en route to become one of 14 states to pass legislation prohibiting race-based hair discrimination.

Paul Donato
State Representative
Kate Lipper-Garabedian
Kate Lipper-Garabedian
State Representative

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