Black lawmakers hail “Crown Act” as session’s first victory

March 10, 2021 GMT

Members of the Connecticut General Assembly’s Black and Puerto Rican Caucus on Wednesday hailed the recent passage of legislation making it illegal to discriminate against someone because of their hairstyle as the first of numerous bills addressing racial inequities they hope will be enacted this year.

Rep. Robyn Porter, D-New Haven, co-chair of the Labor and Public Employees Committee, said the legislation dubbed the “Crown Act” is “just the beginning” of the group’s efforts this session.

“I feel like this is our moment. This is our season. And we are finally going to get everything that we deserve,” she said during a ceremonial bill signing on the state Capitol steps. “And the ‘Crown Act’ is just the beginning, my people.”

ADVERTISEMENT

The name” Crown Act” stands for “Creating a Respectful and Open World for Natural Hair.” Proponents said Connecticut is the eighth state to enact legislation making it illegal to discriminate based on a person’s hair texture or hairstyle in employment, public accommodations, housing, credit practices, union membership and state agency practices.

Democratic Gov. Ned Lamont, who actually signed the legislation into law last week, said it was a “good day” after he signed the bill again while sitting at a table with a crown on it.

Connecticut’s new law also expands the definition of “race” in state law to include ethnic traits that are associated with hair.

“This is just a tipping point of a many, many great things to happen here (this session),” said Rep. Geraldo Reyes, D-Waterbury, chairman of the Black and Puerto Rican Caucus, which he called the “most powerful” in the legislature.

While some critics have questioned whether the Crown Act legislation is necessary, state Rep. Anthony Nolan, D-New London, said it’s long overdue. He spoke about being “smacked” by his grandmother when he was a child for “speaking out of turn” when a white male boss touched her hair and said she had to wear it differently.

Nolan said he felt helpless at that moment. But now, years later, he can finally do something about it.

“I have the power to shut down something that was unacceptable,” said Nolan, who thanked Lamont for signing the bill into law while also lamenting that people face discrimination because of their hair.

“And it doesn’t stop here. We’ve got to move on to housing, education and criminal justice reform,” Nolan said. “There’s power in our Black community and you need to know it and you need to stand up and you need to come out. And this is what happens when we do.”