The Connecticut legislature enacted a new bill that will prohibit restrictive deed covenants based on race and allow property owners to remove such racist language from their property records, Connecticut House Democrats announced on Tuesday.
The new bipartisan measure, co-sponsored by 20 Democrat and 19 Republican lawmakers, was unanimously passed by both chambers of the Connecticut legislature.
The bill targets some land records in Connecticut dating back to the early to mid-19th century that contain provisions restricting ownership and use of the property to people of the white race only.
“Although such covenants are unconstitutional, the legislature officially moved to void the language in state statute and provide a process for people to have it removed from their land records,” House Democrats said in a statement.
The new bill, signed into law in July by Connecticut Gov. Ned Lamont, a Democrat, “declares any racially restrictive covenant attached to land records on property in the state to be void.”
The bill “further allows a property owner who discovers that their land records contain a racially restrictive covenant to file a formal affidavit or other document, to be recorded into the land records by the town clerk, to identify the offensive covenant and show that it is void,” the statement said.
Connecticut House Rep. Jason Rojas (D), who co-sponsored the bill, said in a statement: “These covenants undoubtedly would come as a surprise to many homeowners who may not be aware of this sordid history associated with their home and community.”
Rojas explained how the situation evolved.
“While the Supreme Court declared racial restrictive covenants unconstitutional in 1948, many of these covenants were never nullified or voided and are maintained despite the continued change in ownership of homes,” he said.
” Today, homes in our communities may be owned by individuals that these very covenants would have sought to prevent from owning that particular home.”
David Ware, a resident of Manchester, Connecticut, discovered an example on the original deed from the developer for his father’s house where he grew up.
The deed read: “No persons of any race other than the white race shall use or occupy any building or any lot,” with the exception of “domestic servants of a different race domiciled with an owner or tenant.”
The discovery shocked Ware and his father.
“He was stunned and I was stunned. This is the house I grew up in and is the only home my dad has ever owned,” Ware said according to The Associated Press.
Ware, then studying at the University of Connecticut in his sixties to complete a Master of Law degree, researched the history of his father’s house and other developments in the city and found that properties in three developments in his hometown founded in the 1940s contained racially restrictive language in their deeds, according to UConn Today.
“I gave myself a task of figuring out how we could have a statute in Connecticut that would help identify these things and repudiate them, or refute them, or call them out for what they are—blatant statements of racism,” Ware told UConn Today.
With the support of advisors at the law school, Ware documented his findings in a report, started drafting a statute, and wrote letters to state legislators. As a result of his actions, the law went into effect retroactively on July 1.
Ware plans to spread awareness of the new law and hopes that his 95-year-old father will be among the first to remove racially restrictive language from his deed covenant, reported UConn Today.
This year, nine other states also passed similar law or updated their existing anti-discrimination laws, according to The Associated Press.