MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — A state lawmaker wants to prevent Minnesotans from being discriminated against because of their hair.

It is a topic growing in conversation across the country, and a state lawmaker says it’s time for clarification when it comes to natural hairstyles.

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It was a bustling Thursday afternoon at Get Gorgeous in St. Paul. Haniya Hopson has been sitting in a salon chair for six-and-a-half hours getting braids. Her mom, Hawanya Hopson, sits close by.

“It takes time, it takes a lot of money, it takes a lot of product, and we take care in how we appear,” Hawanya Hopson said.

And she says appearance can get tricky when it comes to certain societal standards, like when it came to her daughter’s former cheer team.

“They would tell me that I needed to have it in ponytails and I needed to straighten it, or curl it, or have it in a certain way, and put the bow in a certain way,” Haniya Hopson said.

In Texas, a soon-to-be graduate was told he could not walk in graduation because of his hair. It was that story that sparked a St. Paul lawmaker into action. Representative Rena Moran tells WCCO she used to straighten her own hair.

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Rep. Rena Moran (credit: CBS)

“This year I just said, ‘You know what? This is a part of who I am, this is a part of our culture. You have to embrace it and love it,’” Rep. Moran said.

She is proposing a bill that would specify that Minnesotans cannot be discriminated against because of hairstyles, such as dread locks, braids or natural curls. She says natural hair should be a freedom.

“It’s really important to me that I am part of helping young girls, young boys feel good about themselves, who they are, and believe that their hair is a beautiful part of who they are,” Rep. Moran said.

She plans to present her bill to the judiciary committee, which should happen next week.

California and New York have passed laws to protect natural hair styles. Five other states, including Wisconsin, are also considering the discrimination ban.

Melissa T. of the Beauty Lounge Minneapolis gave her thoughts on the “Crown Act”:

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In my experience I haven’t seen blatant discrimination based on hair texture but what I witness all the time is Black women with natural hair change their hair texture in order to not be discriminated against. They may straighten their hair for a job interview or big presentation, and not feel comfortable wearing their hair in a natural state or a more “ethnic” style until they secure the position. Black women do not want their hair to be a distraction from their qualifications and want to be judged on their merit not their appearance. Although natural hair and curly hairstyles have become more common in the workplace there is still a perception that straight hair is more “professional.” My personal belief is that black women stifle a part of themselves when they feel the need to alter or adjust a part of their appearance to be more palatable. The individual should be able to express themselves though their hair however they see fit.

Susan-Elizabeth Littlefield