Sessions’ Decades-Long Record on LGBTQ Rights and Civil Rights Is Troubling and Demonstrates That He Is Too Divisive, Too Extreme, and Will Not Protect the Interests and Rights of All Americans.
The U.S. Attorney General, often referred to as “the people’s lawyer,” is the chief law enforcement officer responsible for enforcing the nation’s civil rights laws and fairly and impartially advancing justice for all Americans. President-elect Donald Trump’s nominee for Attorney General, Senator Jeff Sessions, has a decades-long record in public service that paints a very clear picture of a man who is divisive and extreme and far too often has stood on the wrong side of history on civil rights issues. Sessions’ shameful record on LGBTQ rights, as well as other civil rights issues, makes clear that he would be unable or unwilling to protect the rights and liberties of LGBTQ Americans and would threaten to turn back the clock on decades of progress on LGBTQ rights.
Throughout his career, Sessions has actively opposed LGBTQ rights and equality, making clear that he does not support LGBTQ people, our relationships, or our families. While in the Senate, Sessions has:
- Opposed the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd, Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act of 2009, which expanded federal hate crimes to include sexual orientation, gender, and disability.
- Opposed the Local Law Enforcement Act of 2001, which would have added sexual orientation to the definition of hate crimes.
- Voted against an Amendment to the Every Student Succeeds Act that sought to “end discrimination based on actual or perceived sexual orientation or gender identity in public schools.”
- Supported (cosponsored and voted in favor of) two attempts to amend the U.S. Constitution to prohibit same-sex couples from marriage, and spoke out publicly in opposition to and questioned the legitimacy of the U.S. Supreme Court’s marriage equality decision.
- Cosponsored the so-called First Amendment Defense Act (FADA), a dangerous so-called “religious liberty” bill that seeks to prohibit the federal government from taking action against people who discriminate against LGBTQ people based on their religious beliefs.
- Opposed allowing the Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA) to proceed to a vote in the Senate, which would have prohibited employment discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity.
- Opposed the repeal of “Don’t Ask Don’t Tell,” publicly asserting that DADT was “pretty effective” and claiming that most service members who were discharged under the policy choose to leave voluntarily.
- Voted against the Violence Against Women Act of 2013 (VAWA), leading the opposition to reauthorization because he objected to its domestic violence protections which included important protections for undocumented immigrants and LGBTQ people.
As a self-proclaimed “champion and defender of traditional Alabama values,” Sessions has made no secret of the fact that he believes marriage should be between and aman and a woman and that children should have a mother and father. Completely ignoring decades of scientific research to the contrary, Sessions asserted that “objective science” shows that children do better in “traditional” two-parent families “with a husband and wife” and openly encouraged governments to enact legislation that would be discriminatory and harmful to LGBTQ-headed families.
As if all of this were not reason enough to reject Sessions’ nomination for Attorney General, he has an equally troubling record on other important civil rights issues, especially for women, people of color, immigrants, and students with disabilities (see additional testimony here). Sessions’ shameful civil rights record was cause 30 years ago for a Republican-led Senate to reject his nomination for a federal judgeship in Alabama, and his opposition to civil rights and equality since that time have prompted several letters opposing his nomination for Attorney General, including letters submitted by over 400 civil rights organizations, former Massachusetts Governor Duval Patrick, and more than 1100 law school professors.
Sessions’ record stands in direct conflict to the responsibilities of the office of Attorney General and makes clear that he is anything but “the people’s lawyer.” If confirmed as Attorney General, Sessions would be charged with enforcing the very civil rights protections that he has spent his career opposing. His shameful record on civil and human rights makes clear that he is not capable of serving the important function of fairly and impartially enforcing the nation’s civil rights laws and protecting the rights of all Americans.
For these reasons, and many more too numerous to address in one blog post, the Senate should reject Sen. Sessions’ nomination for Attorney General.