West Virginia Lawmakers Reject Passage Of CROWN Act, A Law That Bans Race-Based Hair Discrimination


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Republican lawmakers in West Virginia have rejected the CROWN Act, a bill banning race-based hair discrimination.

The bill was pulled by Sen. Eric Tarr, a Republican, in late February and was sent to the Senate Finance Committee, where it stalled, NBC News reports. According to the Mountain State Spotlight and a spokesperson for the Legislature, Tarr reportedly expressed concerns about potential hair discrimination lawsuits costing the state too much money. 

More than 20 states have enacted laws banning discrimination against hairstyles. The bill’s rejection has been seen as a disappointment for Black hair advocates in the state, with some feeling pushed aside by the leadership. 

“It was definitely a slap in the face. I was extremely disappointed because I felt that this year was the year that it would see its way through” the legislature, said Veronica Bunch, who has advocated for the CROWN Act in West Virginia in recent years. “The leadership we have, and the state itself, I just feel like we’re so regressed in our opinions and our views. In regards to African Americans, we tend to get pushed aside.”

SB 496, introduced by Democratic Sen. Mike Caputo, sought to prevent discrimination based on “hair textures and protective styles historically associated with a particular race.”

Caputo criticized Tarr’s decision, emphasizing the importance of moving forward and addressing discrimination. 

“We hear horror stories all the time about how, particularly women of color, are treated differently because of their hairstyle, their natural hairstyle, or their traditional hairstyles,” Caputo said. “We need to move forward in America, not backward. It’s a shame we still are having discussions like that. I’m ashamed that in West Virginia, we can’t at least do that much.”

Caputo, who will retire after this legislative session, said the bill wouldn’t have a large fiscal impact and he hopes another lawmaker sponsors the bill after he leaves.



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