Missouri Rep. Ann Kelley

Missouri state Rep. Ann Kelley (R-127) is behind a new rule requiring women to cover their arms in the legislative chamber.

(Photo: Ann Kelley/Facebook)

GOP-Led Missouri House Strips Women Lawmakers of 'Right to Bare Arms' With New Dress Code

"On day one in our Legislature they're doubling down on controlling women," one Democratic state legislator said of her Republican colleagues, noting the abortion ban they enacted last year.

Missouri state lawmakers can bear arms in the legislative chamber but if they're women, they can no longer show their bare arms under new dress code rules passed by the Republican-controlled House of Representatives on Friday.

State Rep. Ann Kelley (R-127) is behind the new regulation, which passed by a 105-51 vote as part of a rules package. Rule 98 states that "at all times when the House is seated, proper attire for gentlemen shall be business attire, including coat, tie, dress trousers, and dress shoes or boots. Proper attire for women shall be business attire, including jackets worn with dresses, skirts, or slacks, and dress shoes or boots."

"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?"

Defending the policy during floor debate on Wednesday, Kelley said: "Men are required to wear a jacket, a shirt, and a tie, correct? And if they walked in here without a tie, they would get gaveled down in a heartbeat. If they walked in without a jacket, they would get gaveled down in a heartbeat. So, we are so interested in being equal."

However, Democratic state lawmakers pushed back against the policy, with Rep. Maggie Nurrenbern (D-15) tweeting that "it is mind-boggling that members of the Missouri House have the right to bear arms on the floor of the chamber, but women legislators are forbidden from showing bare arms."

Rep. Peter Merideth (D-80) refused to vote on the measure, telling colleagues, "I don't think I'm qualified to say what's appropriate or not appropriate for women and I think that is a really dangerous road for us all to go down."

"Y'all had a conniption fit the last two years when we talked about maybe, maybe wearing masks in a pandemic to keep each other safer," he added. "How dare the government tell you what you have to wear over your face?"

Also speaking on the House floor, Rep. Ashley Aune (D-14) asked, "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?"

Reacting to the new rule, human rights attorney Qasim Rashid tweeted that "the Missouri GOP banning women from showing their bare arms isn't a sign of Shariah or Taliban—it's a sign of right-wing 'Christian' extremism."

"Stop deflecting extremism in America as something foreign," Rashid added. "It's 100% American. Admit it. Own it. Work to stop it."

Speaking to CNN Friday, Aune noted that "in 2019 House Republicans passed the abortion ban that went into effect this summer after the Dobbs decision came down, fully restricting a women's right to choose in this state, and on day one in our Legislature they're doubling down on controlling women."

Under the state's abortion ban, pregnant Missourians are forced to travel to other states for the medical procedure. Last year, Republican state lawmakers unsuccessfully tried to punish them for doing so via a measure that would have allowed private citizens to sue anyone who "aids or abets" abortions violating Missouri's ban—no matter where they are performed.

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