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Kansas Lawmaker Backs Down Over Dress Code For Female Witnesses

A Kansas state senator who proposed imposing a dress code for female witnesses appearing before Senate committees has withdrawn the plan and apologized on Jan. 26.

Republican State Senator Mitch Holmes proposed the measure on Jan. 21 at a meeting of the ethics and elections committee, media reports said.

“For ladies,” according to the guideline, “low-cut necklines and mini-skirts are inappropriate,” the Topeka Capital-Journal reported.

The Republican state senator claimed that there was no need to provide guidelines on male dress because men knew how to dress professionally.

Holmes at first defended the proposal, despite strong criticism from politicians and the media.

“Oh, for crying out loud, what century is this?” Democratic State Senator Laura Kelly said on Jan. 21, according to Fox News.

Republican senators joined in the criticism.

“Who's going to define low-cut?” said Senator Vicki Schmidt. “Does it apply to senators?”

Another senator pointed out that individuals may be discouraged from giving testimony if Holmes’ rule was in place.

“It is intended to help those who testify to be effective in their presentation. This guideline has been in place for several years with no controversy. No one has ever been blocked or ever will be (except for something outlandish),” Holmes wrote on Facebook Jan. 23, according to the Topeka Capital-Journal.

But after returning to the Senate Jan. 25, Holmes issued a statement the following day, backing down.

“My failure to clearly specify that all conferees, regardless of gender, should strive to present themselves professionally is unacceptable,” the statement read. “I apologize and meant no offense. I have decided to retract the conferee guidelines.”

Susan Wagle, a Republican and president of the Kansas Senate, did not confirm whether she had intervened or asked Holmes to apologize.

“I think Sen. Holmes came back to the Senate on [Jan. 25] and he had conversations with a lot of his colleagues and he personally chose, after talking to everyone, to release a statement,” Wagle told the Topeka Capital-Journal.

The Kansas State Senate had another controversy over a dress code for interns in 2014. Lawmakers tried to make male interns wear a shirt and tie with slacks, while women could wear business clothing with a dressy top. Short skirts and tight pants were forbidden.

Sources: Fox News, Topeka Capital-Journal / Photo credit: Kansas Legislature

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