Kansas senator apologizes for trying to bar 'low-cut tops' and 'mini-skirts'

Sen. Mitch Holmes came under criticism over '11-point code of conduct,' a dress code that singles out women and doesn’t mention any restrictions for men.

Chris Neal/The Topeka Capital-Journal Via AP/File
Kansas Sen. Mitch Holmes, R-St. John, discusses a bill at the Kansas Statehouse in Topeka. Holmes on Tuesday, Jan. 26, 2106, apologized and retracted a dress code that banned plunging necklines and short skirts for women testifying before his committee.

A Kansas state senator is sorry for imposing a dress code on women testifying on bills.

Sen. Mitch Holmes, a Republican and committee chairman, issued an apology and retracted his statement on Tuesday, saying that he meant no offense.

“My failure to clearly specify that all conferees, regardless of gender, should strive to present themselves professionally is unacceptable,” Sen. Holmes said in a short statement, according to the Topeka Journal. “I apologize and meant no offense. I have decided to retract the conferee guidelines.”

Holmes came under criticism over "11-point code of conduct," a dress code that singles out women and doesn’t mention any restrictions for men.

“For ladies,” the rule reads “low-cut necklines and mini-skirts are inappropriate,” the journal reported. Holmes said that he included the statement because provocatively dressed women are a distraction. The guidelines don't provide details for a minimum skirt length or a permissible neckline for blouses.

It's one of those things that's hard to define," Holmes said. "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."

Holmes said that he considered requiring men to wear suits and ties when testifying, but decided that males didn't need any guidance.

Legislators in both parties have strongly criticized the guidelines issued last week.

“Oh, for crying out loud, what century is this?”  Sen. Laura Kelly, a Democrat from Topeka said.

"I am more interested in what they have to say about the direction our state should go than what they're wearing that day," Sen. Carolyn McGinn, a Sedgwick Republican, said.

The guidelines attracted a national attention, after the Topeka Journal covered the story. The Senator posted on Facebook Saturday, defending himself. “The guideline is just that: a guideline. It is intended to help those who testify to be effective in their presentation.” The post read. “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)."

Several people took to Twitter, criticizing the guidelines.

This report contains material from the Associated Press.

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