On November 6, Representative-elect Ilhan Omar became the first Somali-American Muslim in Congress. With this groundbreaking moment in American history, however, comes even more barriers that have yet to be confronted.
Namely, a 181-year-old rule that says “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.” Simply put: With this rule in place, if Omar wanted to address the House, she would need to remove the headscarf that she wears for religious beliefs.
According to RollCall.com, Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi, incoming Rules chairman Jim McGovern, and Omar are looking to change this rule going forward.
The three of them have put forth a proposal that would change this outdated rule to allow religious head coverings such as hijab or kippah on the floor.
In reference to the proposal work, Omar wrote on Twitter, “No one puts a scarf on my head but me. It’s my choice — one protected by the first amendment.” She then added, “And this is not the last ban I’m going to work to lift.”
After a midterm election that broke records and created dozens of firsts across the political spectrum, members of the new freshman class of Congress have already begun using their new position in Washington to seek change before their terms even begin.
This ban is among the first of these long-awaited and necessary changes — but as Omar said, it won’t be the last.