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Texas Hair Braiders Lose Protest of Regulation

AUSTIN (CN) - A Dallas businesswoman who challenged Texas regulation of African hair braiding failed to bring an equal protection case, a federal judge ruled.

Texas law treats hair braiding as a barbering profession and requires practitioners of the trade to hold an official hair-braiding certificate from the state.

Would-be hair-braiders cannot receive credit toward such licenses, however, unless their instructors possess one of two licenses or teach the course as a guest at a registered barber school.

Isis Brantley owns a business, the Institute of Ancestral Braiding, that provides hair-braiding services to the public and instruction to students. She sued William Kuntz Jr., in his official capacity as director of the Texas Department of Licensing and Regulation, and seven members of the Texas Commission of Licensing and Regulation, over the regulations this past October.

The federal complaint alleged violations of the due process clause, the equal protection clause, and the privileges or immunities clause of the 14th Amendment.

U.S. District Judge Sam Sparks dismissed it Monday.

"Brantley concedes her challenge based on the Privileges or Immunities Clause is foreclosed by the United States Supreme Court's holding in the Slaughter-House Cases," Sparks wrote, referring to a decision issued by the high court in 1873.

The 10-page order addresses two equal-protection theories submitted by Brantley.

"First, Brantley contends Texas is arbitrarily treating hair braiders differently from 'guest instructors' by allowing guest instructors to teach the qualifying 35-hour licensing curriculum at an approved barber school, but requiring hair braiders to obtain a barber license and register a barber school to teach the identical curriculum at their own place of business," Sparks explained. "Second, Brantley argues Texas's regulatory scheme treats hair braiders the same as barbers, despite significant differences in those professions. In other words, Texas treats two dissimilar groups identically."

Brantley's theories fail as equal-protection claims, Sparks concluded, noting that they "are merely strained attempts to reframe her due process arguments."

Those arguments are still an issue in the lawsuit, since the state officials have yet to challenge them, the order states.

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