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Testify!

Marilyn Wann announced today that there will be another hearing for a height/weight anti-discrimination bill in Massachusetts! The hearing will be on January 27th. Marilyn says:

Let's flood the legislative inbox! Email Tracy.Choi@state.ma.us. Please copy me: marilyn@fatso.com. Forward this! -- What to write: That you support H.1850. Your ht./wt. discrimination story (esp. at work, school, doctor, housing, seating) and why you care about this law. THANKS!

Please take the time to send an e-mail in support of this bill. If you are interested in testifying in person, please contact Marilyn at the above e-mail. Getting this bill passed would be a huge win for everyone everywhere.

Byron Rushing of Massachusetts tried two years ago to get a similar bill into law and from what I remember--although the bill didn't go through--things went pretty well. It would be fantastic if we could make this happen this year.
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PS--Check out Marilyn's words regarding Rep. Rushing and her experiences with this bill below in the comments.

PPS--I failed to see Rep. Rushing speak the one time I was in Boston. I now may never forgive myself.

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MarilynW's picture
MarilynW
January 12th, 2010 | Link | Making history in Massachusetts!

Thanks so much for posting this exciting info!

I wanted to offer a teensy bit of history on this legislation...

Rep. Byron Rushing has promised to sponsor height/weight anti-discrimination legislation until it passes. He gave the keynote speech at the NAAFA convention in Boston in 2001. I was so moved by his argument and comments that I remember them clearly. He started out by talking about the phrase, "We the people," and about the political realities of how the United States has and has not recognized people as people. He talked about voting as being one of the basic ways that we know a person counts as a person. In the beginning of U.S. history, voting rights were given only to men who owned property. Rushing quoted Benjamin Franklin asking about the case of a man who votes because he owns a donkey, but then his donkey dies..."Where do voting rights reside? In the man or in the ass?" This inequity inspired Shay's Rebellion and a redefinition of voting rights. Rushing described the other costly, time-consuming battles for personhood that women and African Americans waged.

I suggest that you read more about Rushing's amazing life of social justice work here:
http://www.mass.gov/hdc/about/bio_rushing.htm

So that you'll understand just how intense I found it to be, coming from him, that he said in his speech to NAAFA's convention that in his view, the medical establishment does more to discriminate against fat people and to spread weight-based prejudice in our culture than other oppressed groups have faced. Please understand, this is not a claim that I make. But hearing this comment, expressed as sympathy and with outrage, from someone who worked on civil rights in the 60s and who is a leader in African American history...it helps me somehow. It helps me when I do a tv interview and the network thinks it's fair to pit my comments against those of not one MD, but several MDs, all of whom think fat people should be eradicated.

Rep. Rushing has been introducing height/weight anti-discrimination legislation every session of the legislature. In the 90s, the only people from our community who came out to testify were members of the then-very-active Boston chapter of NAAFA. Rep. Rushing has sponsored this legislation with or without our community's support.

In spring of 2008, he was able to devote staff time to working on the height/weight anti-discrimination legislation. This was the first time I had been asked to get involved. Rushing's aide reached out to a number of non-Massachusetts authors and experts. I worked really hard to find as many people as possible to attend and to testify. I worked with NAAFA (I was on their board at the time) to offer financial support for travel for key experts to attend and to testify. We had about 30 people at that hearing. I think we surprised everyone but Rep. Rushing. I think he's been expecting us to show up with pride and conviction all along.

People from Massachusetts testified about their heartbreaking, life-changing experiences of weight discrimination. Susan Stinson spoke powerfully. A woman named Gail Burns made me cry. Deidra Everett testified, as she has many times in the past. Jeanne Toombs, how I miss her! Sondra Solovay and Beth Kinney were brilliant. Among heroic experts testifying: Linda Bacon, Paul Campos, Mark Roehling. From Yale, Rebecca Puhl offered the data documenting just how rampant weight discrimination is. Ellen Frankel and Matt Campisi and Chris Hamre spoke for relatively new NOSSA, the National Organization of Short Statured Americans. (Ellen is also a HAES therapist. I recommend her book about height discrimination: Beyond Measure.) Kira Nerusskaya came down from NYC and filmed the hearing and testified. Marina Wolf Ahmad spoke passionately about weight discrimination in dance. I know I'm forgetting some people. I need to find my list. I testified, too. It's one of the most exhilerating experiences, such a rush, being in a place of institutionalized political power and realizing it's made of people like me.

I admit that I was disappointed that the legislation didn't move out of committee. After getting a similar law passed where I live in San Francisco in one try, I thought we could repeat that success. Sondra Solovay counseled me wisely that political change is a process, not an event.

I also see, from whatever vantage point that I have, that our communities are growing and we are building momentum, for this effort in Massachusetts and for other valuable endeavors.

We have an incredible friend and ally in Rep. Byron Rushing, who is holding a door open for an opportunity for height/weight civil rights in all of Massachusetts. I sincerely hope that everyone who reads this will take a moment to send an email of support for H.1850 in time for the January 27 hearing. I also hope that you ask your friends and your networks to do likewise. It would be so wonderful if legislators in Massachusetts learned that people of all sizes all over the U.S. and the world are watching them and hoping they give people of all sizes a legal basis for equal opportunity.

Thanks tons!

richie79's picture
richie79
January 18th, 2010 | Link | Once again I would love to

Once again I would love to support this bill in any way I can as a non-citizen. My wife is from Boston, and I can only imagine how much more difficult it would have been for her growing up as a fat child in today's world of size hatred. However I do wonder whether this bill or one like it stands any sort of realistic chance in a state where its passage would be reliant on the support of some of the same people who think stigmatising fat kids through 'obesity report cards' is a good thing.

"A waist is a terrible thing to mind" - Tom Wilson

MarilynW's picture
MarilynW
January 21st, 2010 | Link | Why one speaks out...

Hi, Richie79. I think you raise a question that many people will ask themselves. Is this civil rights legislation going to become law?

There's an obvious corollary to this question:

If I anticipate the legislation will not become law, should I bother to spend time and energy supporting it?

I appreciate this question. For my own conscience, whenever I have an opportunity to speak out in support of civil rights for people of all sizes, I am going to do that as effectively and forcefully as I am able. I don't base this decision on an expectation of any outcome.

If legislators in Massachusetts oppose height/weight civil rights, then I think that is a very interesting and *useful* piece of information, a realization that might do more to advance height/weight civil rights than to hinder it.

Whatever the result, I hope people will send emails of support for this legislation. If the legislation doesn't move forward this time, you've still done the right thing!

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