PROHIBIT DISCRIMINATION AGAINST A PERSON WITH A NATURAL HAIRSTYLE

By Bob Katzen

Governor Baker signed into law a bill that would make Massachusetts the 18th state in the nation to prohibit any person or entity including educational institutions, workplaces and public spaces from implementing any policy that would explicitly target someone who wears their natural hairstyle. The measure defines natural hairstyle as hair texture, hair type and protective hairstyles including braids, locks, twists and other formations.

“On the long march toward justice, and especially racial justice, the Senate’s unanimous passage of this legislation marks another step forward,” said Sen. Jason Lewis (D-Winchester) when the Senate approved the bill before sending it to the governor. “We would not be at this point without the great courage and strength of Mya and Deanna Cook, who as 15-year-old students faced discrimination and abuse from their high school for their hairstyles, and bravely stood up for their rights and those of so many other Black women.”

“This is a classic example, in many respects, of a citizen movement started by a very small number of people in which the right thing to do became clearer and clearer the longer the discussion went on,” Baker said upon signing the bill. “I am very glad that this made its way to our desk by the end of the session. I normally, as everybody knows, don’t comment on legislation that’s pending because it has the nasty tendency to change as it works its way through the process, but I said months ago that I hoped this would make it to my desk and I would be able to sign it and I’m very glad this is our first post-pandemic signing ceremony.”

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