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CROWN Act and Juneteenth bill pass Minnesota Senate

Both bills were introduced by Senate president Bobby Joe Champion (D).

ST PAUL, Minn. — The Minnesota Senate passed the CROWN Act with a 45-19 vote on Thursday, along with a bill that would recognize Juneteenth as a state holiday.

The CROWN Act, also known as H.F. 37, prohibits discrimination based on natural hair in the workplace and in schools. The act would update the Minnesota Human Rights Act to include hair discrimination as racial discrimination.

The act would define “race” as including “traits associated with race, including but not limited to hair texture and hairstyles such as braids, locks and twists.”

"The CROWN Act brings clarity to ensure no Minnesotan now or in the future can be discriminated against because of their natural hair,” said the bill's author, Senate President Bobby Joe Champion, (DFL) D-59.

The bill was met with some resistance from Republican senators, including Sen. Nathan Wesenberg, D-10, who wanted the bill amended to include beards as protected hairstyles.

"In the three weeks I have been [an elected official], I have received emails that I look ugly, and that I should shave my face and go back to Hickville," said Wesenberg. "I don’t think that’s appropriate. I have a beard and it is my natural hair.” 

Sen. Champion emphasized the importance of keeping the bill as it relates to race and culture, something he says beards are not a part of.

"If there is a bill in the future that someone believes that should correct a wrong, we should certainly do that then," said Champion. "I just believe this particular bill should respond to what we have heard in terms of complaints."

Soon after, Sen. Erin Maye Quade, (DFL) D-56, spoke on her experience growing up and the lasting pressure of straightening her curly hair as a biracial girl with a white mother in Minnesota. 

"In the year 2023, I’m glad that we are here but I can’t believe it took us this long to acknowledge that the way that our hair grows out of our head is not bad,” said Quade. "This amendment gets us one step closer to telling every person — including little Black and Brown girls and boys with afros that they are wonderful exactly as they are.” 

The bill will now head to Gov. Tim Walz for his signature. According to the national movement, Minnesota would become the 20th state, including D.C., to sign the CROWN Act into law.

At Salon Lofts in Uptown Thursday, hair stylists Masha D. Carter and Whitney Parker of Beauty by Whitney shared that clients often discuss how their hairstyles are or will be perceived.

"I just had a client today that, because of breakage, she had to get her hair cut and she then had to embrace her natural look, no chemicals in the hair, and I had to just keep reinforcing that her natural look was absolutely gorgeous on her," Carter said. "I am so thankful to live in a time to see [the CROWN Act] passed."

"Yes, it is time," Parker added. "We have to work on doing our part at home, too, making our kids feel beautiful whatever kind of hair they have."

The Juneteenth recognition bill, known as S.F. 13, also passed the Senate Thursday with a 57-8 vote. The bill would recognize Juneteenth as an official state holiday in Minnesota.

The bill received bipartisan support including from Sen. Warren Limmer (R), who thanked Champion for introducing the bill to the floor and called it “long overdue.” 

"Every government in the country should recognize June 19 – Juneteenth – as a holiday," said Limmer. "[Juneteenth] recognizes the struggle. Not only the civil rights struggle but the struggle that this nation has long had."

Juneteenth, which is celebrated every year on June 19, commemorates the end of slavery in the United States. On that day in 1865, slaves in Galveston, Texas, learned President Abraham Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation two-and-a-half years prior.

The bill now awaits action in the House of Representatives, though according to Champion, who spoke to KARE11 earlier in January, the legislation could reach the governor's desk possibly by the end of next month.

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