Two Puerto Rican legislators recently brought forth a new bill that seeks to end hair-based discrimination on the island, an issue that affects many Puerto Ricans. The new bill, similar to mainland legislation like the CROWN Act, seeks to put an end to discrimination against those wearing Black hairstyles.

Daily Kos reported that two members of the Puerto Rican Senate, Sen. Ana Irma Rivera Lassén and Sen. Rafael Bernabe, introduced legislation in January to protect people who wear natural hairstyles from discrimination in areas such as education, housing, and both public and private employment. The bill lists styles such as “tight coils or curls, locs, bonded braids, twists, braids, Bantu knots, and afros” as among those that would be protected under the proposed law. The two senators held a hearing on Jan. 23 and received testimony from various people who have experienced discrimination or hardships because of their natural hair.

Activists and advocates for equal rights have celebrated the legislation. However, the legislation faces obstacles and pushback. Other than the bill’s two co-sponsors, nearly all of Puerto Rico’s senators chose not to attend the Jan. 23 hearing. And NBC News reported that some local officials have questioned the necessity of the new law, arguing that both local law and federal legislation already prohibits the type of discrimination covered in the new proposal. Nonetheless, proponents of the new law argue that it is necessary to explicitly include hair-based discrimination in the law to protect people from being forced to alter their hair or be denied opportunities. This is particularly important in Puerto Rico, where around half of the 3.2 million people identify as more than one race, including many who have Black heritage.

The debate in Puerto Rico comes as a number of laws have been passed in recent years to combat hair-based discrimination. A version of the CROWN Act, which stands for Creating a Respectful and Open World for Natural Hair, has been implemented in 24 states across the United States. A federal version of the law, introduced to Congress by Rep. Bonnie Watson Coleman, passed the House in 2022 but has not yet cleared the Senate. Even with such legislation, however, hair-based discrimination continues, as the case of Darryl George, a Texas high school student who has been suspended since August for having locs, demonstrates.

With such treatment persisting across the country, legislation like the proposed law in Puerto Rico remains necessary. Passing and enforcing anti-discrimination measures remains an uphill battle but an important one.