While Jeremy is in Israel for professional development opportunities, we offer some reflections on an important legislative priority from our Director of Government Affairs, Aaron Agulnek.
At the beginning of every two-year legislative session in the Commonwealth, upwards of 7,000 bills are filed by Senators and Representatives, covering almost every issue imaginable (and likely, many that you may not have known were even issues). Each year we consult with our partners, networks of allies and legislative champions to identify where to focus our attention amongst the competing priorities. Our process is guided by the interests of the organized Jewish community, the opportunities to deepen ties with our allies, and our mandate to move an agenda that promotes a more inclusive and just Commonwealth. This is often an imperfect science, and requires focus on what is moving and where our voice is needed.
This year, one piece of legislation we are supporting is HD779/SD922 An Act Prohibiting Discrimination in State Contracts (PDF). Filed by Senators Cindy Creem, Representative Paul McMurtry and Representative Steven Howitt, it is currently supported by a bipartisan coalition of over 50 co-sponsors. While we have a longstanding commitment to oppose discrimination in any form, this current political climate compels us to ensure that discrimination is not subsidized by the Commonwealth of Massachusetts on the basis of who somebody is.
So, what exactly does this bill do? At it's core, this legislation is another step forward in Massachusetts' leading commitment to the principle of anti discrimination. First, that anyone seeking to do business with the Commonwealth of Massachusetts must affirm that they are in compliance with the Massachusetts Anti-Discrimination Laws, which prohibit discrimination in housing, employment and public accommodations, based on someone’s race, color, creed, religion, sex, national origin, gender identity or sexual orientation; second, that they will not refuse to do business with someone based solely on these same immutable traits. To put it simply, if you want to enjoy business with the state, don’t discriminate.
Joined by 38 other local Jewish organizations, We recently issued a statement expressing our grave concern about recent Executive Orders on immigration and refugees, one of which banned refugees from seven targeted countries from coming to the United States. We all witnessed the incredible harm that discrimination based on national origin can wreak on individuals and society as a whole. The Anti-Discrimination legislation, if enacted into law, seeks to prevent the very damage such divisive acts inflict and would make it clear that people who seek to contract with the state cannot refuse to do business with another simply because of their nation of origin.
This bill also protects LGBTQ business owners who face threats of boycotts of their businesses, solely because of who they are. It protects women-owned businesses, Muslim-owned businesses, Asian-owned businesses, African-American owned businesses, and yes, Israeli owned businesses, from being discriminated against based on who they are.
In the face of bigotry, delegitimization, and forces that seek to define and judge people based on who they are, rather than what they do, we stand up and say that this invidious discrimination has no place in the Commonwealth.
Please visit JCRC’s Action Alert and let your Senators and Representatives know that our Commonwealth should not subsidize those who seek to tear our communities apart and thank those who have already signed on. We are stronger when we stand together.