Freedom of hairstyles could be on the governor's desk before the midpoint of the legislative session after the Crown Act on race-based protections on texture and style passed a Senate committee Monday.
Next up is the Senate floor, where it needs to be voted on twice, if it remains unamended, before it's sent to Gov. Jared Polis to sign into law. Democrats have a 19-16 majority in the chamber, and the bill, so far, has collected every Democrats' vote.
House Bill 1048 prevents discrimination against hairstyles associated with a racial identity, such as an afro or braids.
The bill's sponsors contend people of African, native American, Jewish and Latino descent are denied educational and employment opportunities due to their hairstyles, both natural and groomed.
“It's going to send a very clear message that in the state of Colorado we will not tolerate hair discrimination," Sen. Rhonda Fields, a Democrat from Aurora who is sponsoring the bill, told the Senate State, Veterans and Military Affairs Committee.
Colorado could become the fourth state to pass the law, called the Create a Respectful and Open World for Natural Hair, or CROWN, Act. California, New York and New Jersey have passed the act, and a national law is pending in the U.S. Senate.
"We just can't have our young children and young adults being told they can't participate in their high school graduation because of the texture of their hair, or that they can't compete in sports," she told the committee.
The committee passed the bill 3-1 on Monday, with Republican Sen. Jerry Sonnenberg of Sterling voting against it. He pressed the case about whether employers would be able to say something if they thought an employee's hairstyle was bad for the image of the business or presented a safety concern.
"Is there any room for that here?" he asked Fields, who told him not if the policy is racially discriminatory.
Fields is vice chair of the Black Democratic Legislative Caucus of Colorado. The bill was introduced in the House by Rep. Leslie Herod, a Democrat from Denver who chairs the caucus, and Aurora Democratic Rep. Janet Buckner.
"We’re almost there — the end of race-based hair discrimination in Colorado is on the horizon," Herod said in a text Monday night. "For every girl who was ever taught they had to suppress a part of themselves if they wanted to succeed, for every person who was ever held back professionally for expressing her culture, and for every child in the future who won’t have to grow up with this discrimination, I’m anxious and excited to see this practice banned once and for all."