House Democrats Propose Religious Exemption on Headwear Ban

November 20, 2018, 2:07 PM UTC

Since 1837, no member of the House of Representatives has been permitted to step onto the House floor wearing any form of hat or headwear.

In the 181 years since, the rule remained in place, facing minimal opposition. But with the most diverse, Democratic-majority Congress set to descend on Capitol Hill in January, that might change.

Democratic Representatives Nancy Pelosi and Jim McGovern, as well as political newcomer Ilhan Omar—who also happens to be one of the two first Muslim women elected to Congress—have proposed adding an exemption for religious headwear as part of a set of proposed rules changes for the next Congress, called “New Congress, New Rules.”

Under a section entitled restore inclusion and diversity, the draft proposes ensuring religious expression, suggesting a clarification that “religious headwear is permitted to be worn in the House chamber.” According to NBC News, the language of the proposed rules change will also include allowing head covering for those who are ill and have lost their hair.

Tweeting about the proposed change, Omar wrote, “No one puts a scarf on my head but me. It’s my choice—one protected by the first amendment. And this is not the last ban I’m going to work to lift.”

Other efforts to ensure diversity and inclusion in Congress include the proposed creation of an independent diversity office, intended to “facilitate a diverse workforce with qualified candidates that is reflective of [its] Members and the districts they represent,” and an explicit ban on discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity.