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Missouri Republicans pass a rule requiring women to cover their arms in the state House chamber

The Missouri Capitol in Jefferson CityThe Missouri Capitol in Jefferson City

Jeff Roberson/AP

  • Missouri Democrats tore into their Republican colleagues over changes to the state House dress code.
  • Republicans passed a rule requiring female lawmakers to cover their arms in the chamber. 
  • “We are again fighting for a woman’s right to choose something and this time it is how she covers herself,” one Democrat said.

Missouri Democrats slammed their Republican colleagues for a move to impose a stricter dress code on female lawmakers in the state House.

“There are some very serious things within this package that we should be debating, but instead we are again fighting for a woman’s right to choose something and this time it is how she covers herself and the interpretation of someone who has no background in fashion,” state Rep. Raychel Proudie, a Democrat, said on the floor during at times heated debate earlier this week.

Video of the debate was posted on Twitter by Heartland Signal, a digital publication and an offshoot of WCPT 820AM, a left-leaning radio station based in Chicago.

—Heartland Signal (@HeartlandSignal) January 11, 2023


Proudie was speaking out against Republican state Rep. Ann Kelley’s push to amend the House’s formal rules by requiring women to wear a blazer while in the chamber. The GOP-led House later passed slightly amended rules that require female lawmakers to cover their arms but that allows for cardigans and other kinds of jackets, The Washington Post reported.

“You know what it feels like in this room to have a bunch of men in this room looking at your top to decide whether it’s appropriate or not?” said state Rep. Ashley Aune, a Democrat, adding that the entire debate was “ridiculous.”

At this point, Kelley appeared to have grown frustrated. She then retorted that it was indeed “ridiculous” that her colleagues were engaging in such a heated debate over her proposed changes.

“Lady, you’re right, it is ridiculous,” Kelley said. “It is absolutely ridiculous that we have to talk about it on the House floor in the House chamber. Why should we even talk about something like this?”

Aune responded by pointing out that it was Kelley’s proposal that started the debate.

“You brought this to the floor, lady. You tell me,” she said.

Kelley wasn’t done. She added, “You think all you would have to do is say dress professionally and women could handle it.”

Proudie and other lawmakers pointed out that the changes could pose difficulties for lawmakers who could be forced to scramble for new clothes to meet the requirements.

“Just finished floor debate explaining why knit blazers do not include cardigans on an amendment restricting what women can wear in the House,” Rep. Jamie J. Johnson, a Democrat, wrote on Twitter. “Why would we need to add additional class barriers to the idea that anyone could represent the people.”

Like most statehouse chambers, the Missouri House must pass new rules once it convenes the General Assembly every two years. The St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported that previous rules allowed for “dresses or skirts or slacks worn with a blazer or sweater and appropriate dress shoes or boots.”

Kelley’s office did not immediately respond to Insider’s request for comment.

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