by Greg Liggins

SACRAMENTO (CBS13) — A new bill to end discrimination against natural hairstyles has passed its first hurdle with a unanimous vote. The bill applies to various styles including braids, dreadlocks, and twists.

This comes after an incident sparked outrage in December when a white referee forced a black high school wrestler to cut off his dreadlocks or forfeit his match. The athlete was already wearing a cover over his hair, but the referee said that was not enough.

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The wrestler eventually agreed to the impromptu haircut and went on to win the match, but some called the incident discriminatory.

Currently, there are no legal protections for people being discriminated against because of certain hairstyles, but this new proposed law could change that.

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Stylist Dana Miller welcomes legislation that would allow people to wear their natural hairstyles without fear of discrimination. The bill, SB 188, is backed by state senator Holy Mitchell (D-Los Angeles), who wears a natural hairstyle herself.

The bill would make it illegal to discriminate against people with natural hairstyles in the workplace or in housing.

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“There are a number of court cases we’ll be talking about in the committee that will suggest it is a problem across this country and across the state,” Mitchell said.

In a South Sacramento salon Tuesday, story after story was shared of people feeling forced to change their look to get ahead. Chalyss Evans spoke about her friend, a realtor.

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“She had a lot of trouble selling houses when she had her hair in twists. And then when she took it down and pressed it and had it straight, she sold houses just like that,” Evans said.

Veteran barber Ramon Chester had a similar experience, chopping off his dreadlocks years ago to fit in the corporate mold.

“I wish I hadn’t done it, now I encourage young men with dreadlocks to kind of neaten up the style,” Chester said.

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If the CROWN (Create a Respectful and Open Workplace for Natural Hair) Act becomes law, people will not have to make such difficult decisions about their appearance.