New Jersey rep. reintroduces federal CROWN Act legislation to ban hair discrimination

The bill, which stands for "Creating a Respectful and Open World for Natural Hair," currently has 84 co-sponsors.

ByChandelis Duster, CNN, CNNWire
Thursday, May 2, 2024
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Democratic lawmakers have reintroduced legislation that would ban discrimination based on a person's hairstyle or hair texture, marking the latest attempt in Congress to pass a federal CROWN Act.

New Jersey Rep. Bonnie Watson Coleman introduced HR 8191, also known as the CROWN Act of 2024, in the US House of Representatives on Tuesday.

The bill, which stands for "Creating a Respectful and Open World for Natural Hair," currently has 84 co-sponsors.

If enacted, individuals with hairstyles that are commonly associated with race or national origin, like "tightly coiled or tightly curled, locs, cornrows, twists, braids, Bantu knots, and Afros" would be protected from discrimination.

The law would prohibit discrimination against anyone participating in federally assisted programs, housing programs, employment, schools and public accommodations, based on their hair.

"Being an American is about accepting the wonderful diversity of this country and it is knowing that our society is richer, and culturally and spiritually and economically emboldened because of it," Watson Coleman said during a news conference on the legislation on Wednesday.

"Discrimination against Black hair is discrimination against Black people and we're going to put a stop to it."

Previous attempts to pass federal CROWN Act legislation have stalled in Congress. Watson Coleman said one of the challenges lawmakers face in getting the new measure passed is securing bipartisan support in a Republican-controlled House.

RELATED: Congress passes CROWN Act banning race-based hair discrimination

"A major hurdle we'll have is getting the GOP leadership to bring the bill up for a vote. What is encouraging is that for the first time we have bipartisan support in the Senate," Watson Coleman previously told CNN.

"This bill has broad support because people know this is fundamentally about freedom. The freedom to be who you are. Democrats know this, Republicans know this. What we need is for GOP leadership to bring it up for a vote."

CNN has reached out to House Speaker Mike Johnson and Majority Whip Steve Scalise's offices for comment on the legislation.

New Jersey Sen. Cory Booker, a Democrat, and Republican Sen. Susan Collins of Maine co-sponsored the companion bill in the Senate.

"This is not a partisan issue. The federal government would simply be following the lead of our states," Booker said on Wednesday. "This is an issue of justice. This is an issue of fairness. This isn't just an issue of ending discrimination that has existed for too long. Enough is enough."

RELATED: 'Natural hair' bill could change workplace standards

The Biden administration previously said it "strongly supports" a federal CROWN Act and "looks forward to working with the Congress to enact this legislation and ensure that it is effectively implemented."

Lawmakers have worked for years to pass federal legislation to prevent hair discrimination. In March 2022, the then-Democratic-controlled House advanced national CROWN Act legislation that later stalled in the Senate.

Members of the Congressional Black Caucus have continued to urge leadership to take action to pass the bill but Congress has yet to take up the legislation again.

The push for federal legislation is also championed by Dove, National Urban League, Color of Change, the Western Center on Law & Poverty and other advocacy groups, who together form the CROWN coalition.

During the news conference, Adjoa B. Asamoah, lead legislative strategist and a co-founder of the coalition, said purportedly "race-neutral" grooming policies often reinforce Eurocentric standards of beauty which is "problematic."

"Racism is very real and it requires a thoughtful and intentional approach to dismantle the rules and practices that reinforce it. And in this case, to mitigate the physical, psychological, and economic harm caused by race-based hair discrimination," she said.

While federal efforts have stalled in the past, some state and local bills have gained momentum. More than 20 states have enacted a CROWN Act law, although the bills offer different levels of protection, according to an analysis by the Economic Policy Institute.

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