Democrats in Congress are planning to update their rules to allow religious headwear in the chamber, a change that most immediately would benefit Representative-elect Ilhan Omar (D-MN), a Muslim woman who wears a headscarf.
The proposal is included in a number of rule changes Democrats plan to put in place when they take over the House next year. Hats, and with them, head coverings of any kind, have been banned in Congress for 181 years.
House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) and Democrat Rep. Jim McGovern (D-MA) co-authored the proposal, along with Omar.
The first Somali-American in Congress, Omar was born in Somalia and came to the U.S. as a refugee. Before she and another incoming freshman lawmaker, Rashida Tlaib, (D-MI) were elected during the midterms, no Muslim woman had ever been voted into Congress.
Najat Hamza, a leader from the Oromo community, which, according to Feet in 2 Worlds, is the second largest East African immigrant population in the Twin Cities of Minneapolis and St. Paul, said to the publication, “As an immigrant she understands our hurdles and our newly adapted American roots and values … If it was someone from a different background they can speak to you, but they can’t claim they have lived it and know what has worked and what hasn’t. They don’t carry that heart, that passion in a real sense.”
Another proposal by House Democrats would establish a diversity office and write a ban on discrimination against LGBTQ people into the House rules.
These rules are an acknowledgement of the diversity of incoming members of Congress on the Democratic side.
Among other firsts for newly elected Democratic leaders, Rep.-elect Ayanna Pressley will be Massachusetts’ first black congresswoman. Sharice Davids (D-KS) and Deb Haaland (D-NM) were the first Native American women elected to Congress. Rep.-elect (D-NY) Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez is the youngest person to be elected to Congress.
The LGBTQ community will also be better represented. Davids would also be the first lesbian Kansans elected to Congress. Katie Hill (D-CA) will be the first bi woman to represent Californians in Congress.
Some conservatives are already nervous about some of these new members of Congress. Fox News host Laura Ingraham called Pressley, Ocasio-Cortez, Omar, and Tlaib the “four horsewomen of the apocalypse,” Ingraham accusing them of being on a “warpath against white men.”