The Bulletin Board

Bill to bar discrimination based on hairstyle fails to gain committee’s support

By: - September 28, 2021 3:53 pm
The state house as viewed through a stone arch

House Bill 359 was introduced last session after a New Jersey wrestler was forced to cut his dreadlocks. (Dave Cummings | New Hampshire Bulletin)

A proposal to bar “discrimination based on hairstyles relative to a person’s ethnicity” was deemed “inexpedient to legislate” by the House Judiciary Committee on Tuesday in an 11-10 vote along party lines.

Rep. Alexis Simpson, an Exeter Democrat, spoke in support of the bill, as well as an amendment that was introduced to broaden the measure to include protections related to gender and sexual orientation. Simpson said that since the bill was introduced, at least 14 other states have passed some kind of language to ban discrimination based on hairstyle.

House Bill 359 was introduced last session after a New Jersey wrestler was forced to cut his dreadlocks. A civil rights investigation followed, and a lawyer representing the player later said he faced ongoing discrimination. HB 359 was retained in committee last session.

Rep. Mark McLean, a Manchester Republican, opposed introducing “more and more granularity” into the human rights statute, where the new language would be added.

“If you start to go down that path then that will have the impact, I think, of weakening the protections that are offered in some of the broader categories,” he said. He pointed to the example of an accent, which is not explicitly mentioned but conceivably covered under protections for race or country of origin.

Democrats on the committee pushed back, saying that the addition of this language wouldn’t take rights away from anyone.

While the amendment to broaden the language of the bill passed, the bill ultimately received a recommendation of “inexpedient to legislate” and will be voted on by the full House in January.

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Amanda Gokee
Amanda Gokee

Amanda Gokee is the New Hampshire Bulletin’s energy and environment reporter. She previously reported on these issues at VTDigger. Amanda grew up in Vermont and is a graduate of Harvard University. She received her master’s degree in liberal studies, with a concentration in creative writing, from Dartmouth College. Her work has also appeared in the LA Review of Books and the Valley News.