Ilhan Omar, a newly elected Muslim lawmaker, has co-authored a proposal for the relaxation of a 181-year-old ban on the use of head coverings in the US house of representatives.
The change was jointly proposed by Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi, incoming rules chairman Jim McGovern and Omar as part of a larger overhaul package.
Hats of any kind and head coverings have been banned from the house floor since 1837.
“During the session of the House, a Member, Delegate, or Resident Commissioner may not wear a hat or remain by the Clerk’s desk during the call of the roll or the counting of ballots,” the rule on the hat ban reads.
“A person on the floor of the House may not smoke or use a mobile electronic device that impairs decorum. The Sergeant-at-Arms is charged with the strict enforcement of this clause.
“No Member is to come into the House with his head covered, nor to remove from one place to another with his hat on, nor is to put on his hat in coming in or removing, until he be set down in his place.”
Omar, a Somali refugee and Minnesota representative-to-be, joined Democratic leaders in drafting an update to the rule to allow for religious exemptions for headwear including the hijab, Jewish yarmulkes or Sikh turban.
When Omar is sworn in next year, she will become the first federal legislator to wear a religious headscarf.
“No one puts a scarf on my head but me. It’s my choice—one protected by the first amendment,” Omar said.
“And this is not the last ban I’m going to work to lift.”
Commenting on the proposal, McGovern said: “This change will finally codify that no restriction may be placed on a member’s ability to do the job they were elected to do simply because of their faith.”