A Montana lawmaker who was the object of ridicule in 2014 after he wrote up a dress code for female members of the state legislature, described as “right out of the 19th century” by a critic, has apparently had a change of heart about female apparel — when it comes to Muslims.
On the opinion pages of the Missoulian, House Speaker Austin Knudsen stood up for fellow Republican Greg Gianforte who is running for the Montana governorship using banning Syrian immigrants from the state as one of his hot button issues. Gianforte opposes efforts to relocate refugees into Montana, saying only immigrants who want to be Americans should receive “the privilege of U.S. citizenship.”
Knudsen agrees, writing that he believes refugees from Syria and other Muslim countries are being moved to the “front of the line,” and are “not being required to assimilate to our American culture.”
“In fact, most of them are tacitly encouraged to bring their culture with them, and are now demanding that we assimilate to them. Much of this Muslim culture is foreign and strange to us,” he wrote. “Our culture doesn’t require our women to cover themselves head to toe. We don’t treat our women as second-class citizens, and not allow them to speak or testify in court.”
Treatment of woman as “second-class citizens” as well as telling them how to dress didn’t seem to bother Knudsen when he felt called upon as House Speaker to admonish both female lawmakers and female staffers to watch how they dressed while on the Montana Legislature floor.
Saying everyone should dress in “formal business attire” during legislative session, Knudsen defined it for woman as “A suit or dress slacks, skirt, jacket and dress blouse or suit-like dress and appropriate shoes,”with the admonishment, “Leggings are not considered dress pants.”
Not content with that, Knudsen also stated “Women should be sensitive to skirt lengths and necklines,” adding that “House and Senate leadership” would be responsible for enforcing the new dress code.
Knudsen’s proposed dress code was slapped down by Democratic House Minority Whip Jenny Eck, who said a simple “Please dress in formal business attire that is befitting the office you hold,” would have sufficed.
Noting the neckline/hemline warning, Eck added, “That phrase is right out of the 19th century as far as I’m concerned.”