A Christian Conservative lawmaker in Kansas has used his position as a Senate Committee chairman to enforce a dress code for female witnesses in courts. The rules govern skirt length and cleavage allowance. There are no equivalent rules for men.
Sen. Mitch Holmes is the Republican chairman of the Senate Ethics and Elections Committee in Kansas, and has included his new rules in an 11-point code of conduct. He argues that women in court, and in the Senate, dress provocatively to distract men – and he wants to bring an end to this.
Women will not be permitted to give testimony if they do not abide by the rules.
He told the Topeka Capital Journal:
“It’s one of those things that’s hard to define.”
“Put it out there and let people know we’re really looking for you to be addressing the issue rather than trying to distract or bring eyes to yourself.”
His bizarre rules and comments have prompted withering condemnation from female members of the committee and the Kansas legislature. Topeka Democrat Senator Laura Kelly responded:
“Oh, for crying out loud, what century is this?”
Meanwhile, even Republican colleagues were unwilling to defend Holmes. GOP Senator Vicki Schmidt (Topeka) sighed:
“Who’s going to define low-cut?”
“Does it apply to senators?”
In total, four of Holmes’ female senatorial colleagues (two Republicans and two Democrats) have come forward to publicly condemn his comments, and stress that women should not be subjected to gender-specific dress codes.
Another Republican Senator, Carolyn McGinn of Sedgwick, spoke to the fact that men and women in the Senate and our courts should be judged by their contribution, not their clothing, saying:
“I am more interested in what they have to say about the direction our state should go than what they’re wearing that day,”
It is indeed hugely disappointing to see a lawmaker use his position to implement gender-specific dress codes that enforce his patriarchal religious codes onto the women of the state. This is the very reason the Founding Fathers separated church and state in the U.S. Constitution – because freedom of religion is not merely about the right to practice our own religion (or none) in peace, but to avoid being forced to follow the whims of anyone else’s. The women of Kansas just lost that right.
Featured Image via Flickr Creative Commons