Election 2021

Should Pennsylvania amend its constitution to prohibit discrimination based on race and ethnicity? (ballot question)

The concepts in this ballot question aren’t debatable, but they’re not yet formally enshrined at a state level.

In 2013, professionals at the Conservation Center for Art & Historic Artifacts in Philadelphia helped restore the Pennsylvania Constitution

In 2013, professionals at the Conservation Center for Art & Historic Artifacts in Philadelphia helped restore the Pennsylvania Constitution

Conservation Center for Art & Historic Artifacts

💌 Love Philly? Sign up for the free Billy Penn newsletter to get everything you need to know about Philadelphia, every day.

Up for voters’ consideration on the May primary ballot is a measure that would protect Pennsylvanians from discrimination on racial or ethnic lines.

Yes, that right is essentially guaranteed by broader laws at the state and federal level already. But the initiative would amend the state constitution to confirm and reinforce the ideas, formally enshrining them in the commonwealth’s governing document.

What you’ll see on the ballot

Shall the Pennsylvania Constitution be amended by adding a new section providing that equality of rights under the law shall not be denied or abridged because of an individual’s race or ethnicity?

What it means

Philly state Sen. Vincent Hughes proposed this ballot question as protests over racial justice were erupting last summer.

“Discrimination based on race is cooked into the DNA of this nation and we must take action to explicitly prohibit racial and ethnic discrimination in Pennsylvania’s Constitution,” Hughes said at the time.

Read about the other May 18 ballot questions:

🗳️ Visit the Billy Penn procrastinator’s guide to all the candidates

If voters pass the measure, it will add a new section to Article I of the Pa. Constitution, creating a prohibition against denying an individual equal rights because of their race or ethnicity. There are already non-discrimination clauses in the document, plus federal laws like the Equal Protection clause, but this would prohibit racial discrimination explicity at the state level.

Though the initiative has broad support, some have argued in the past that similar measures could open the door to so-called “reverse racism” complaints — i.e. white people claiming they’ve been discriminated against.

Who’s for it (and against it)



  • Billy Penn couldn’t identify any Pennsylvania opponents.

Want some more? Explore other Election 2021 stories.

Mornings are for coffee and local news

Billy Penn’s free morning newsletter gives you a daily roundup of the top Philly stories you need to start your day.

You finished another Billy Penn article — keep it up!

We hope you found it useful, fun, or maybe even both. If you want more stories like this, will you join us as a member today?

Nice to see you (instead of a paywall)

Billy Penn’s mission is to provide free, quality information to Philadelphians through our articles and daily newsletter. If you believe local journalism is key to a healthy community, join us!

Your donation brought this story to life

Billy Penn only exists because of supporters like you. If you find our work valuable, consider making a sustaining donation today.

Being informed looks good on you

Thanks for reading another article, made possible by members like you. Want to share BP with a friend?