Boston; May 31, 2023: Today, a federal lawsuit was filed to challenge the Commonwealth of Massachusetts’ discriminatory COVID relief program, which allowed only individuals of certain races, sex, or sexual orientations to apply.

“Opportunity — including eligibility for government programs — should not depend on skin color, sex, or sexual orientation,” said Andrew Quinio, an attorney at Pacific Legal Foundation. “Massachusetts’s discriminatory requirements for COVID-19 relief are unequivocally wrong and unlawful. Thankfully the Constitution protects hardworking business owners from the commonwealth’s discriminatory actions.”

Brian Dalton, a retired Massachusetts law enforcement officer, knows how brutal COVID-19 has been to small businesses. After retiring from the Suffolk County Sheriff’s Department, Brian founded New England Firearms Academy, providing certified firearms safety instruction.

Due to the pandemic, Brian was forced to close for three months with no revenue. After selling assets and dipping into savings to cover rent and other bills, when the state allowed him to re-open, additional government-ordered safety measures cost thousands more to comply.

This year, Massachusetts launched the Inclusive Recovery Grant Program, an economic growth and relief grant set out to support small businesses negatively impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic. Brian wanted to apply, but there was a hitch. To qualify, a business must meet at least one of the following criteria: Minority-owned, Woman-owned, Veteran-owned, Immigrant-owned, First-Generation Immigrant-owned, Disability-owned, and LGBTQ+-owned.

Brian met all eligibility requirements for the academy’s finances, staffing, and business standing. He soon discovered, however, that his race and sex prevented him from even applying for relief.

The case is Brian Dalton, et al. v. Hao and MA Growth Capital Corp., filed in the U.S. District Court for the District of Massachusetts.

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Pacific Legal Foundation is a national nonprofit law firm that defends Americans threatened by government overreach and abuse. Since our founding in 1973, we challenge the government when it violates individual liberty and constitutional rights. With active cases in 34 states plus Washington, D.C., PLF represents clients in state and federal courts, with 17 wins of 19 cases litigated at the U.S. Supreme Court.

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