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New legislation would ban discrimination based on hair

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New legislation in the state house would amend the Elliott Larsen Civil Rights Act to include protections for hair.

The bill would amend the Elliott Larsen Civil Rights Act to include “traits historically associated with race.” In this case, that means the natural hair texture and hair styles associated with black people including braids, locks, and twists.

Democratic Representative Sarah Anthony, D-Lansing, sponsored the measure. She said she’s heard from constituents who have been discriminated against based on their hair style.

“There are many professions that men and women have been told just the way it comes out of our scalp is not professional,” Anthony said. “It impacts promotion, it impacts being hired, and even termination.”

Anthony said the amendment is essential to protecting people. 

“These kind of subjective ways to really discriminate against folks based on how their hair might naturally grow out of their scalp,” she said.

As part of her efforts to get support for the legislation Anthony said she is planning to collect experiences via social media to show just how widespread discrimination based on hair styles is.

“These are not isolated incidences,” she said. “I think the more folks feel comfortable in sharing their experiences the better.”

Similar legislation has already been enacted in New York and California.

Anthony said, at least among her colleagues, there is excitement for the bill.