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Republicans block bill to ban Black hair discrimination

This is the second time the GOP has stepped in to kill the CROWN Act

The CROWN Act, a piece of US legislation that would ban discrimination against a person because of their natural hairstyle or texture, has faced yet another roadblock as Republicans have halted the bill’s passage in the Senate.

The bill’s journey up until this point has been far from plain sailing. In the US legislature, for a bill to be enshrined in law it must pass through both houses of Congress: the House of Representatives and the Senate. The CROWN Act was first introduced to the House of Representatives in December 2019 by Reps. Cedric Richmond, Ayanna Pressley, Marcia Fudge and Barbara Lee. It was initially passed by the House in September 2020, however later stalled in the GOP-controlled Senate.

The bill was reintroduced to the House in March 2021 and successfully passed a second time in March 2022, despite staunch opposition from Republican representatives. However, on December 14 2022, the bill was brought to the Senate floor and, once again, blocked by Republican Senators.

Rep. Bonnie Watson Coleman, the bill’s sponsor, spoke to the House a day after the bill was suspended. “I rise today because the Republican Party has once again chosen to stand against civil rights”, she told her fellow representatives, adding that “I stand here disappointed but not defeated”, and went on to invite the Senators across the aisle to put party politics aside and “choose to stand for justice when the next opportunity arises”.

The CROWN Act, which stands for “Create a Respectful and Open World for Natural Hair,” began its life as a piece of legislation in California, where it unanimously passed both chambers of the California State Legislature in the summer of 2019. The law was then adopted in other states including New York, New Jersey, Washington, Virginia and Colorado, where it was enshrined in state law. The bill that is currently being debated in Congress would be part of federal law, meaning it would be enacted across the whole of the US if passed successfully.

In response to Republicans blocking the bill, Rep. Coleman and the Congressional Black Caucus, a body that advocates for issues important to Black Americans, have urged Senate leadership to include the CROWN Act in its end-of-year legislation.