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Massachusetts Senate passes bill banning hair discrimination

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Boston City Councillor Lydia Edwards speaks at Piers Park in East Boston. (Jesse Costa/WBUR)
Boston City Councillor Lydia Edwards speaks at Piers Park in East Boston. (Jesse Costa/WBUR)

The Massachusetts state Senate unanimously voted on Thursday in favor of a bill banning discrimination based on a person's hair texture or style.

Many senators spoke on the issue including newly elected Boston Democrat Lydia Edwards, the Senate's only Black member.

"You must understand what systemic racism does is not just prohibit economic opportunity and jobs. It diminishes the soul. It diminishes yourself of who you are because of something you cannot control," Edwards said. "And it took me so long, so long, as a part of my life to ever say that my hair is long, that it is beautiful and that is natural."

The proposed state legislation is a version of the CROWN Act, which stands for Creating a Respectful and Open World for Natural Hair Act, and is a bill in Congress seeking to ban discrimination based on a person's hair texture or style. It has passed the U.S. House, but not yet the Senate.

This legislation stems from a Malden charter school that banned hair braid extensions in 2017 after sisters Deanna and Mya Cook were given multiple hours of detention for how they styled their hair. Both sisters were present for the Senate vote.

Several states including New York have already implemented their own versions of the CROWN Act. The version Massachusetts is considering prohibits hair discrimination in the workplace and in schools.

A slightly different version of the bill previously passed the Massachusetts House. The Senate included two amendments that extend discrimination protections to religious schools and private school athletes.

Gov. Charlie Baker has indicated his support.

State House News Service contributed to this report.


This story is part of the New England News Collaborative. It was originally published by New England Public Media

This segment aired on April 1, 2022.

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