The House on Friday passed legislation that would ban discrimination against people based on their hair.
Crown is an acronym standing for Creating a Respectful and Open World for Natural Hair. The bill would prohibit ‘discrimination based on an individual’s texture or style of hair.’
If the Crown Act () becomes law, discrimination against people based on their hair would be treated like discrimination on the basis of race or national origin under federal civil rights law.
The legislation states that ‘routinely, people of African descent are deprived of educational and employment opportunities’ for wearing their hair in natural or protective hairstyles such as locs, cornrows, twists, braids, Bantu knots and Afros.
Crown Act passed largely among party lines in a 235-189 vote. House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer urged his colleagues to vote for the bill, citing that the military took steps to end hair discrimination last year.
‘If anybody thinks this isn’t a real issue, obviously the military thought it was an issue. And it was an important enough issue they took action,’ Hoyer, who is white, said.
Only 14 of 188 Republicans joined Democrats in support of the bill.
The piece of legislation, which President Joe Biden has urged lawmakers to pass, will now move to the Senate.
The measure was introduced by Representative Bonnie Watson Coleman, a Democrat from New Jersey.
In remarks on the House floor Friday morning, Watson Coleman spoke to the bill’s necessity, noting how there are people in positions of authority ‘who think because your hair is kinky, it is braided, it is in knots or it is not straight and blonde and light brown, that you somehow are not worthy of access to those issues.’
‘Well,’ she added, ‘that’s discrimination.’
House Republicans questioned the need for the legislation, many saying they believe existing laws that ban race-based discrimination should cover the issue.
‘It’s covered. It’s wrong if it happens,’ said Representative Jim Jordan, the top Republican on the House Judiciary Committee and an Ohio Republican.
Jordan spent much of his remarks making the case that the House should be considering legislation related to inflation or historically high gas prices instead.
Over a dozen US states have passed similar laws on their own accord looking to end hair discrimination, including New Jersey, California and New York.
Most recently in Massachusetts, where the state’s own version of the Crown Act passed on Thursday in an unanimous vote. The state saw a push in advocacy for the legislation after two Black teenage girls were suspended from school events because of their braided hair extensions.
‘For too long, Black girls have been discriminated against and criminalized for the hair that grows on our heads and the way we move through and show up in this world,’ said Massachusetts Representative Ayanna Pressley, who is a Democrat.
The bill faces an uncertain future once at the Senate, given opposition from Republicans. There would need to be at least 10 Senate Republicans in support of the bill for it to overcome any filibuster.
Biden has indicated that he would sign the Crown Act into law if it reaches his desk.
‘The president believes that no person should be denied the ability to obtain a job, succeed in school or the workplace, secure housing, or otherwise exercise their rights based on a hair texture or hair style,’ the White House said in a statement.
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