Minnesota House Passes Crown Act Hair Discrimination Bill | Minnesota News

By MOHAMED IBRAHIM, Associated Press/Report for America

ST. PAUL, Minn. (AP) — The Minnesota House of Representatives on Monday passed a law with bipartisan support that would make it illegal to discriminate against someone because of their hairstyle.

The “Crown” Act, an acronym for “Creating a Respectful and Open World for Natural Hair,” would add hairstyle and texture to a provision of Minnesota’s human rights law that prohibits racial discrimination in the housing, employment and education, among other areas.

Rep. Esther Agbaje of Minneapolis, the bill’s author, said the legislation adds explicit language on hair discrimination to make it easier for judges to hear discrimination cases and to simplify the process. complaint process.

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“At the heart of this bill is the ability to allow more people to present themselves as themselves at school or in the workplace without fear of repercussions because of their hair,” Agbaje told the House before the vote on Monday afternoon.

Agbaje cited an incident when an employer banned hairstyles worn by black employees such as afros, braids and dreadlocks, and fired employees who refused to cut their hair once the policy was put in place. The bill, she said, would prevent such incidents while removing the added stress felt by black employees and students to comply in the workplace by using chemicals to straighten their hair.

Fourteen states have enacted similar laws against hair discrimination, according to a coalition of organizations campaigning for the legislation.

At the federal level, Democratic U.S. Rep. Ilhan Omar from Minnesota last year joined four black congresswomen in reintroducing the legislation in the House and sending a letter to Vice President Kamala Harris asking for her support. . Democratic U.S. Senator Cory Booker of New Jersey reintroduced a companion bill in the Senate.

Democratic state Rep. Rena Moran of St. Paul drafted a Crown bill that passed in 2020, though it was not considered by the GOP-controlled Senate.

Democratic Sen. Bobby Joe Champion of Minneapolis, author of this year’s Senate version, said he thinks the ‘environment is ripe’ due to the upcoming election and focus on racial discrimination and inequality in Minnesota since the death of George Floyd.

“I think we in Minnesota have gone through a lot to understand that we need to be a much more inclusive Minnesota, whether it’s George Floyd, whether it’s other well-documented challenges that we’ve faced,” did he declare. “We have always, as Minnesotans, been at the forefront of doing the right thing and we call on that higher call for Minnesotans — especially in the Senate — to do the right thing.”

Champion told reporters he had requested hearings in the Judiciary and Civil Law Committees to try to push the bill forward. Champion also said he had discussions with Republican and Democratic colleagues in the Senate to gain support, as well as with Democratic Gov. Tim Walz about end-of-session options to move the bill forward.

Mohamed Ibrahim is a member of the Associated Press/Report for America Statehouse News Initiative. Report for America is a nonprofit national service program that places reporters in local newsrooms to report on underreported issues.

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