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House approves adding hair provisions to definition of race in Human Rights Act

Although there are legal protections from discrimination on the basis of color, creed, religion, sex and a number of other areas, there is no legal protection from being discriminated against for hair.

That would change under the provisions of a bill passed 92-39 by the House Friday.

Sponsored by Rep. Rena Moran (DFL-St. Paul), HF3103 would add a provision for hair into the definition of race in the Minnesota Human Rights Act, which is meant to provide freedom from discrimination.

The definition in the bill states: "‘Race’ is inclusive of traits associated with race, including but not limited to hair texture and hair styles such as braids, locks, and twists.”

The bill now travels to the Senate, where Sen. Jeff Hayden (DFL-Mpls) is the sponsor.

California and New York passed similar legislation last year as part of a national effort known as the CROWN (Creating a Respectful and Open World for Natural Hair) Act. Its goal is to ensure statutory protection to hair texture and protective styles in state education codes and the federal Fair Employment and Housing Act.

Supporters say the bill would provide clarity to ensure that, when talking about race, hairstyles inherent to racial identity are included.

“I know many may think in the 21st Century, does this really exist, are African Americans discriminated [against] because of their hair in our schools, in the workplace?” Moran said. “I would say to you, ‘Yes.’”

Rep. Eric Lucero (R-Dayton) objects to the bill because of what he believes is subjective language that would make it difficult for employers to make policies against discrimination.

“It puts employers in a very bad position,” Lucero said.

But Rep. Ruth Richardson (DFL-Mendota Heights) said discrimination on the basis of hair persists in Minnesota and around the country.

“This legislation makes sense and it’s long overdue,” Richardson said. “It’s an important step forward for quality in our schools and equality in our workplaces.”

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