Washington House approves ban on race-based hairstyle discrimination

Olympia

OLYMPIA, Wash. (AP) — The Washington House has passed a measure that would ban race-based discrimination against hair texture and hairstyles.

The measure passed on a bipartisan 87-10 vote Wednesday and heads to the Senate for consideration. If passed by the Senate and signed by Gov. Jay Inslee, Washington would join three other states with such a ban: California, New York and New Jersey.

The bill amends the Washington Law Against Discrimination so that the term “race” includes traits historically associated or perceived to be associated with race, including hairstyles like afros, braids, locks and twists. Under the measure, people could file claims with the state’s Human Rights Commission if they believe they were discriminated against because of their hair.

“It is a shame that in 2020 we have to pass a bill to respect black women, men and children in their hair texture and the styles that they choose to wear,” said Democratic Rep. Melanie Morgan, the bill’s sponsor. “This form of discrimination is embedded in the harmful impacts of black codes and historical injustices. These codes continue to limit the freedom of identity and cultural expression.”