Walz signs ethnic hair protections into Minnesota law
The CROWN Act adds natural hairstyles and textures to the definition of race in the Minnesota Human Rights Act.
ST. PAUL — Minnesota law will now include specific protections against discrimination based on ethnic hairstyles.
Minnesota Gov. Tim Walz on Wednesday, Feb. 1, signed into law the CROWN Act, which adds hairstyle protections to the state’s existing human rights statute. Natural hairstyles and textures would be specifically included in the Minnesota Human Rights Act, offering protections for “braids, locs and twists.”
“Discrimination has no place in Minnesota,” Walz said in a news release. “By signing the CROWN Act, we are sending a message that Black Minnesotans deserve to live and work free from discrimination. Today we are taking an important step in creating a more equitable Minnesota.”
The Senate voted 45-19 to pass the bill last Thursday. Bill sponsor Sen. Bobby Joe Champion said Black women are more likely to be sent home from the workplace for their hairstyle, and that the bill would ensure long-overdue protections against discrimination.
The House bill, sponsored by Rep. Esther Agbaje, DFL-Minneapolis, passed by a vote of 111-19 on Jan. 11. The governor's office said a ceremonial bill signing is planned for later this week.
Minnesota’s ethnic hairstyle protection legislation is part of a national movement to put such 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.
The House passed the CROWN Act bill during last year’s legislative session, but the Republican-controlled Senate never took up the bill. DFLers won a one-seat majority in the Senate in the last election.
Some Republican lawmakers questioned the need for protections as state law already prohibits hair discrimination tied to race.
Human Rights Commissioner Rebecca Lucero, an appointee of DFL Gov. Tim Walz, told lawmakers in committee that 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.
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