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Missouri lawmakers pass stricter dress code for women in state House

Missouri lawmakers pass stricter dress code for women in state House

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Lawmakers in the Missouri House of Representatives this week passed a stricter dress code for women as part of new rules packageand now requires them to cover their shoulders by wearing a jacket such as a jacket, vest or knit jacket.

The supplement that was suggested by Republican state Rep. Ann Kelly, drew outrage from some Democrats who said the change was sexist because the dress code for men was not changed.

Men in the Missouri House of Representatives are required to wear a jacket, shirt and tie. The previous dress code for women required “dresses, skirts or trousers worn with a blazer or sweater and appropriate shoes or boots”.

Kelly, speaking in the chamber, said she felt compelled to propose the change, which “cleans up some of the language … by mirroring the language in the gentleman’s dress code.”

“Men are required to wear a jacket, shirt and tie, right? And if they walked in here without a tie, they’d be betrayed in an instant. If they came in without a jacket, they would be gifted in an instant. So we’re so interested in being equal,” Kelly said Wednesday during a debate.

Women hold less than a third of the seats in the Missouri House, which is made up of 116 men and 43 women, according to state house website.

The dress code amendment passed by a voice vote and the package of rules later passed the GOP-controlled Legislature on a 105-51 vote, but not without pushback and debate from House Democrats.

“Do you know what it feels like to have a bunch of men in this room looking at your top trying to determine if it’s appropriate or not?” Democratic state Congresswoman Ashley Aoun announced from the floor.

Republicans changed their amendment to include vests after Democratic Rep. Rachel Proudy criticized the impact the blazer requirement could have on pregnant women.

Rep. Peter Merideth, a Democrat, declined to vote on the amendment, telling his colleagues on the floor: “I don’t think I’m qualified to say what’s appropriate or not appropriate for women, and I think that’s a really dangerous path for us to go down .”

“You’ve all had a fit over the last two years talking about maybe, maybe wearing masks during a pandemic to protect each other. How dare the government tell you what to wear on your face? Well, I know some governments require women to wear things over their face, but here, oh, it’s OK because we’re just talking about how many layers they should have on their shoulders,” added Merideth.

In the US Congress, until 2017, reporters and lawmakers had to wear dresses and blouses with sleeves if they wanted to enter the chamber. A group of bipartisan women legislators protested their “right to bare arms,” prompting then-Speaker Paul Ryan’s office to admit that the dress code “could be modernized a bit.” The US Senate later also changed its rules, The New York Times reported.

Aune told CNN Friday afternoon that the change signals that Republicans in the state are not focused on “issues that matter.”

“In 2019, House Republicans passed the abortion ban that went into effect this summer after the Dobbs decision, completely curtailing women’s right to choose in this state, and on their first day in our legislature, they doubled down on control of women,” she said on “CNN Newsroom.”

“It’s wild to me. I think it sends a message that the Republican Party, the Missouri GOP, doesn’t have your best interests in mind and (is) not focused on the important issues.

This story has been updated with additional details.

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