BOSTON – The Massachusetts House of Representatives on Monday passed legislation that would prohibit discrimination based on natural and protective hairstyles. Marking March as Women’s History Month, the House also passed legislation that would create a Women’s Rights History Trail program promoting education and awareness of the struggle for women’s rights in Massachusetts.
“I’m proud the House took action once again to ban discrimination based on natural and protective hairstyles in our schools, places of work, housing, and public accommodations. Bans on natural hairstyles are racist, and prohibiting these discriminatory policies is the right decision,” said Speaker of the House Ronald J. Mariano (D-Quincy). “Additionally, by creating a Women’s Rights History Trail program, the House is memorializing the struggle for women’s rights and suffrage in Massachusetts. I thank Chairs Day and Fiola, as well as Representatives Ultrino, Tyler and Kane for their efforts to advance these pieces of legislation.”
“An Act prohibiting discrimination based on natural and protective hairstyles” (H.4554) would define natural hairstyle in statute, prohibit discrimination in schools, employment, housing and business, and ban school policies that restrict natural and protective hairstyles. This legislation would also expand criminal law prohibiting assault and battery for purposes of intimidation to include natural hairstyle and adds natural hairstyle to hate crime data collection and reporting requirements. It was approved by the House of Representatives 155-0.
“I proud to be a part of this historic bill that will take action to ban discrimination based on natural and protective hairstyles,” said Representative Jessica Giannino (D-Revere). “Hair is a part of our identity and culture. Men and women, especially women of color, have long faced challenges of superficial standards in professional and educational settings. By passing this bill alongside creating a Women’s Rights History Trail program, the House memorializes the struggle for women’s rights and suffrage in Massachusetts.”
“I am proud to support this legislation which recognizes the rich history of women’s rights and suffrage in our Commonwealth. It is fitting that we recognize the brave exploits of fellow Bay Staters like Sarah Parker Redmond and Lucy Stone who dedicated their lives to advancing the rights of women,” said Representative Jeffrey Rosario Turco (D-Winthrop). “I am equally proud to have join in unanimous vote to outlaw discrimination based on natural hairstyle.”
“People of color across the Commonwealth, particularly Black women, continue to face discrimination in school, in the workplace and in public spaces based on the texture and style of their hair,” said State Representative Michael Day (D- Stoneham), House Chairman of the Joint Committee on the Judiciary. “It is racism, and this bill is necessary to address continued attempts to outflank our laws against discrimination based on race.”
“This is an historic moment for Massachusetts. 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 Representative Steven Ultrino (D-Malden). “Today, the votes in our chamber sent a clear message: race-based discrimination has no place in our Commonwealth. On this day, 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 & Brown communities throughout the Commonwealth,” said Representative Chynah Tyler (D-Boston), Chair of the Massachusetts Black and Latino Legislative Caucus. “Black women are more policed in the workplace than any other racial/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.”
“An Act relative to the creation of a women’s rights history trail” (H.4555) would require the secretary of the Massachusetts Department of Transportation, in conjunction with executive director or the Massachusetts Office of Travel and Tourism to develop and implement a Women’s Rights History Trail program that designates properties and sites as historically and thematically associated with the struggle for women’s rights and suffrage. The Women’s Rights History Trail Task Force would research, solicit public input, and make recommendations for sites, properties, and attractions to be included in the Women’s Rights History Trail program. The legislation was approved by the House of Representatives 154-0.
Both bills now go to the Senate for their consideration.