HARTFORD (AP) — Connecticut moved closer Wednesday toward becoming the latest state to pass legislation making it illegal to discriminate against someone because of the texture of their hair or their hairstyle.
The House of Representatives overwhelmingly approved the legislation on a 139-to-9 vote. It followed an emotional debate where some Black lawmakers spoke about the pain of being judged by their hair and not for their abilities.
“This is real. It is so real in our lives that it’s painful,” said Rep. Robyn Porter, D-New Haven, the co-chair of the General Assembly’s Labor and Public Employees Committee who has championed the legislation. She said Black people — women, men and children — have carried the burden for years of having to change their hair in hopes of fitting in or being accepted in a white-dominated society.
“We were born with this texture. We didn’t go out and purchase it from Amazon,” said Rep. Patricia Billie Miller, D-Stamford. “God gave us this texture of hair and guess what? It’s not easy to take care of. It’s not easy to maintain.”
Under the bill, which now awaits action in the Senate, it would be illegal to discriminate based on a person’s hair texture or hairstyle in employment, public accommodations, housing, credit practices, union membership and state agency practices. It also specifies the term “race” includes ethnic traits that are historically associated with hair.
Rep. Kimberly Fiorello, R-Greenwich, who is Asian, spoke about how her son has been the subject of racist taunts while playing sports because of his heritage. But she said that a better understanding of one another and not legislation that focuses on one distinct group is what’s needed to improve society.
“Our fight to end racism will not be won by passing more laws and more laws,” she said.