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Common Threads in the Fight for Economic Liberty

An IJ victory in one case can spark other projects that build on that success. That’s what happened with IJ’s 2015 victory in Patel v. Texas Department of Licensing and Regulation. The Texas Supreme Court struck down the state’s licensing requirements for eyebrow threaders, putting forth a new legal standard that takes into account the reasonableness of economic regulations and the burdens those regulations impose on ordinary people. IJ brought new cases to spread the economic liberty success—and the Patel precedent—to other states. 

As a result, threaders in Louisiana and Arizona have been freed from onerous licensing requirements. The Pennsylvania Supreme Court has adopted Patel’s reasoning, applying it to short-term property managers. And the Georgia Supreme Court has similarly held that the state constitution protects economic liberty. But IJ hasn’t stopped there.

In February, we joined two small-business owners in Oklahoma—Shazia Ittiq and Seema Panjwani—to challenge that state’s onerous licensing requirements for eyebrow threaders, who face government demands like those struck down in Texas. The Oklahoma Board of Cosmetology requires threaders to complete at least 600 hours of cosmetology schooling, not a minute of which addresses threading. Threaders must also pass two exams that test only practices that threaders never use. 

Most threaders can’t afford to stop working and complete the required irrelevant schooling—which costs thousands of dollars—and threading business owners can’t keep their doors open without the help of their unlicensed employees who know how to thread well. After all, licensed estheticians and cosmetologists in Oklahoma are not taught how to thread in school.

Oklahoma’s licensing requirements for threaders are not only senseless; they’re unconstitutional. Like the Texas Constitution, the Oklahoma Constitution protects the right of state residents to earn an honest living free from unreasonable government interference. What’s more, the Oklahoma Constitution explicitly recognizes an inherent right to the enjoyment of the gains of one’s own industry.

Shazia and Seema, like their employees, have been practicing threading since they were teenagers, becoming experts in the safe but delicate technique. They have spent years developing their threading businesses from the ground up, and they deserve to enjoy the benefits of what they have worked so hard to build. We are going to court to ensure they have that opportunity and to continue our nationwide effort to secure the economic liberty of all Americans.

Marie Miller is an IJ attorney.

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