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Bill banning hair-based discrimination in Michigan headed to governor’s desk

Sarah Anthony hugs person next to her
Sen. Sarah Anthony, a Lansing Democrat and the CROWN Act’s sponsor, celebrates the bill’s House passage. (Bridge photo by Lauren Gibbons)
  • Bill would add anti-discrimination protections for traditional Black hairstyles like braids and locs
  • It passed both the Senate and House and will soon head to the governor
  • Latest effort by Democratic majority Legislature to expand state’s civil rights law

Legislation banning employers from discriminating against Michigan residents with braids, locs, twists or other traditionally Black hairstyles will soon head to the governor’s desk. 

The Michigan House on Wednesday voted 100-7 to approve the “Creating a Respectful and Open World for Natural Hair,” or CROWN, Act, which would extend the state’s civil rights protections against racial discrimination to hairstyles and hair textures.


Supporters say the additional protections would go a long way toward safeguarding Black Michigan residents getting pushback for their hairstyle choices. 


Multiple studies conducted in 2020 by Michigan State University and Duke University show Black women with natural hair were seen as “less professional, less competent, and less likely to be recommended for a job interview” than their Black peers with straight hair or white women.

Black students are also more likely than any other racial or ethnic group to face suspension over dress code or long hair violations, according to The Brookings Institution, a D.C.-based policy think tank

“Discrimination based on hairstyles has long served as a thinly-veiled excuse to discriminate,” said Rep. Stephanie Young, D-Detroit. “This form of prejudice is a real problem that many men, women and children are forced to face every day.”

a group of people in the Michigan House
Black lawmakers in the House said the bill would prevent situations where people are forced by employers to change or cut their hair. (Bridge photo by Lauren Gibbons)

In 2021, a student and a school staffer in Mount Pleasant cut off the hair of a 7-year-old biracial girl, whose father filed a federal lawsuit claiming racial discrimination. In 2019, an 8-year-old girl in Jackson was barred from taking school pictures for having red hair extensions

Currently there are no federal protections against race-based hair discrimination. But if signed, Michigan would be among at least 20 states and Washington, D.C. with similar laws, according to the Virginia-based human resources association Society for Human Resource Management.

According to the CROWN Coalition, an advocacy group promoting the efforts nationwide, legislation was first approved by the state of California in 2019 and has since been filed in 24 states.


Sen. Sarah Anthony, the Lansing Democrat who sponsored the legislation, was present on the House floor for the vote, visibly emotional as “yes” votes filled the screen. She’s been pushing for the effort since 2019, but her bills hadn’t gotten a hearing prior to this session. 

“I was laughed out of rooms,” Anthony said during Senate testimony last month. “People told me and encouraged me to focus on issues that really matter, things of substance.”

The CROWN Act is Democrats’ latest effort to expand civil rights protections since they took over the majority in the state Legislature in January. Since then, Democrats have passed laws to prevent discrimination based on sexual orientation, gender identity, and a person's decision to receive an abortion

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