Louisiana lawmakers shut down bill banning hair discrimination immediately, bill almost passed last year

Many Black women have experienced that wearing their natural hair or protective hairstyle is perceived as unprofessional in the workplace

The Louisiana Senate unanimously shot down legislation to protect students and workers in the state from discrimination based on their natural or protective hairstyles. 

As reported by The Advocate, House Bill 667, authored by Rep. Tammy Phelps, D-Shreveport, nearly passed last year but “failed Monday in the House Civil Law and Procedure Committee by a 6-8 vote,” the outlet writes. Rep. Richard Nelson of Mandeville was the lone Republican to support the five Democrats who sought to send the bill to the full House.

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Republicans who opposed Phelps’ bill noted that it’s similar to last year’s Louisiana CROWN Act, which expands the state’s existing anti-discrimination law to combat racial discrimination against Black hairstyles like braids and cornrows, locs, twists, and natural hair. CROWN is an acronym for ‘Creating a Respectful and Open World for Natural Hair.’

Dove and the CROWN Coalition conducted a survey in 2019 with 2000 Black and white women about hair care. WAFB 9 reported that 80% revealed they had to change their hair to fit in at work. Many Black women noted that wearing their natural hair or protective hairstyle is perceived as unprofessional in the workplace.

“(Natural hairstyles) are already immutable characteristics associated with race, and we already have a cause of action to sue based on race. Then why do we need (this legislation)?” said Rep. Ray Garofolo, R-Chalmette, who opposed HB 667, Louisiana Illuminator reports. 

Phelps said hairstyle discrimination is not unique to Black Americans as the bill would protect the hairstyles of white people as well. 

Another opponent of the bill, Rep. Larry Frieman, R-Abita Springs, noted that “natural hairstyle occurs in nature. Braids, locs, and twists don’t occur naturally. You actually have to do something to achieve that, right?” he said during the hearing. 

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“It’s not about a style,” replied Phelps, who is Black. “It is a difference in our ethnicities here. We’re just asking if you would be considerate in knowing there’s a distinction.”

“As an elected official, I am able to perform my duties with my hair as it is or if it was in braids or twist,” said Phelps. “It’s what it is in my head that matters.”

There are currently 15 states that have reportedly enacted versions of the CROWN Act to provide federal protection against hair discrimination. 

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