ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

Ethnic hair protections move forward in Minnesota Legislature

If signed into law by the governor, hairstyles and textures would be added to the definition of race in the Minnesota Human Rights Act, offering protections for “braids, locs and twists.”

Minnesota Capitol Dome
The Minnesota State Capitol building.
Michael Longaecker / Forum News Service file photo
We are part of The Trust Project.

ST. PAUL — A bill that would create specific protections against discrimination based on ethnic hairstyles has passed in the Minnesota House and awaits a vote in the Senate.

The CROWN Act, sponsored by Rep. Esther Agbaje, DFL-Minneapolis, would add hairstyle protections to the state’s existing human rights statute. If signed into law by the governor, hairstyles and textures would be added to the definition of race in the Minnesota Human Rights Act, offering protections for “braids, locs and twists.”

“This language will clarify that Minnesota will not tolerate discrimination based on hair. It will clearly define that no one should be prevented from a job or education because of the way their hair grows naturally out of their head,” Agbaje said ahead of a House floor vote on her bill last week. “We know that racial discrimination is not always overt and this bill ensures that discrimination based on biases or stereotypes can be stopped or held accountable.”

Esther Agbaje.jpg
Rep. Esther Agbaje.
Contributed / Paul Battaglia

Agbaje further added ahead of the vote on her bill that while protected hairstyles are often associated with people of African descent, the law creates protections from hair discrimination for all Minnesotans.

Minnesota’s hair protection legislation is part of a national movement to put ethnic hairstyle protections in state and federal law. So far, nearly 20 other states have passed their own versions of the CROWN Act, the name of which is an acronym for “creating a respectful and open world for natural hair.” California was the first state to pass such a law in 2019, and the U.S. House of Representatives has passed a CROWN Act bill.

ADVERTISEMENT

The House passed Agbaje’s CROWN Act during last year’s legislative session, but the Republican-controlled Senate never took up the bill. But this year the bill has already received a hearing in the Senate, which the Democratic-Farmer-Labor Party took control of in the last election.

Members of the House passed the CROWN Act by a vote of 111-19 on Jan. 11. The bill awaits a vote by the full Senate, which had its own version of the bill but has adopted the one passed by the House.

While ethnic hairstyle protections enjoy broad bipartisan support in the Legislature, some GOP members have expressed concerns about the bill.

At a House Judiciary and Civil Law Committee Hearing on the bill, some Republican members asked about the bill's implications for workplace health and safety, such as long hair getting caught in machinery. Minnesota Human Rights Commissioner Rebecca Lucero said workers already must prove that a hair policy is being applied for discriminatory rather than safety or health reasons.

Rep. Harry Niska, R-Ramsey, questioned the need for added protections for hairstyles in state law as the current human rights statute already bars hair discrimination when related to race. Lucero, an appointee of DFL Gov. Tim Walz, said the CROWN Act would provide “necessary clarity” on an issue that has a gap in existing state law and sends a “powerful message” that hair discrimination can qualify as race discrimination.

MORE FROM ALEX DEROSIER
Northshore Mining's out-of-work miners exhausted their 26 weeks of unemployment in November.
The final piece, released Tuesday, Jan. 24, includes what the governor touted as the biggest tax cut in Minnesota history.
The Northern Lights Express, or NLX, would connect downtown Minneapolis to the St. Louis County Depot in Duluth. Stops are planned in Coon Rapids, Cambridge, Hinckley and Superior, Wis. 
The proposals called for expanding affordable health care by establishing a MinnesotaCare public option and more than a billion dollars in affordable housing proposals over the next four years.

Alex Derosier covers Minnesota breaking news and state government for Forum News Service.
What To Read Next
A 50-year-old Red Wing woman has pleaded guilty to second-degree murder related to leaving her new born infant boy in the Lake Pepin as part of a plea deal.
The Minneapolis-based utility says the technology will allow it to add more renewable energy to its system and maintain reliability
Crisis pregnancy centers received almost $3 million in taxpayer funds in 2022. Soon, sharing only medically accurate information could be a prerequisite for funding.
13-year-old Evan Peloquin's collection of character dispensers ranges from Papa Smurf to Darth Vader, even though he admits "I dislike the flavors" of the candy.