Byron Rushing was elected to the Massachusetts House of Representatives in 1982.
In the legislature, Byron's priorities are human and civil rights, and the development of democracy; local human, economic and housing development; and housing and health care for all.
Byron successfully sponsored legislation to create the Commission to develop a comprehensive plan to end homelessness in the Commonwealth; that Commission which he co-chaired with Undersecretary Tina Brooks released its report and 5-year plan in 2008. The plan has been adopted by the Deval Patrick administration.
He sponsored the law for the over-the-counter sale of sterile needles and the law creating statewide guidelines for hospitals dealing with violence victims. He is a chief sponsor of legislation for substance abuse "treatment on demand." He co-chairs the state's Health Disparities Council.
Byron was an original sponsor of the gay rights bill and the chief sponsor of the law to end discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation in public schools. He was one of the leaders in the constitutional convention to maintain same sex marriage in Massachusetts. He is a spokesman against the restoration of the death penalty. He leads the effort for size acceptance and anti-discrimination on the basis of height and weight. He is concerned about the constructive re-entry of ex-offenders and is a proponent of CORI reform.
He was a leader of the Commonwealth's anti-apartheid efforts and is a sponsor of the Commonwealth's twinning relationship with the Province of the Eastern Cape in South Africa.
During his service in the Legislature he has chaired the committees on Counties, on Local Affairs, on Public Service, and on Insurance. When he chaired the Committee on Insurance, he was the chief sponsor of the health reform ending pre-existing condition refusals by insurance companies and chaired numerous meetings of diverse stakeholders leading to the successful passage of nongroup insurance reform law. When he chaired the Committee on Public Service he oversaw the merger of the two state pension funds.
From 1972 to 1985, he was President of the Museum of Afro-American History. Under his direction, the Museum of Afro-American History purchased and began the restoration of the African Meeting House, the oldest extant black church building in the United States. In 1979, Byron oversaw the lobbying effort in Congress to establish the Boston African American National Historical Site, a component of the National Park Service. Byron led the Museum in the study of the history of Roxbury; the Museum conducted the archaeological investigation of the Southwest Corridor for the MBTA. Byron stays involved in this work: as a legislator he sponsored the creation of Roxbury Heritage State Park and occasionally leads walking tours of African American and working class neighborhoods in Boston and Roxbury.
Born in New York City, Byron has lived in Boston since 1964. During the 1960's he was active in the civil rights movement--working for CORE (Congress of Racial Equality)in Syracuse, NY--and as a community organizer for the Northern Student Movement in Boston. He directed a group of organizers, Roxbury Associates, who helped to found the Lower Roxbury Community Corporation, one of the first CDCs in the nation, and who began some of the earliest organizing in a black community against the war in Vietnam.