Jeff Sessions and LGBT rights: What to expect
Alabama Senator Jeff Sessions is the man of the hour as President-elect Donald Trump’s nominee for the Department of Justice is set to face confirmation hearings at the Senate this week.
While many things have been posted about Trump’s nominees for his incoming administration, the 70-year old Sessions is notable for having failed a Senate confirmation process in 1986 when he was dumped over allegations of racism for a federal judgeship.
Fortunately for him, the Senate Judiciary Committee is currently controlled by the Republicans and the Democrats don’t have the power to block his confirmation as the next Attorney General.
Given this, what can the LGBT community expect from Sessions?
Jeff Sessions and LGBT rights
From being the former Alabama federal prosecutor and state attorney general to his current position as senator, Sessions will face questions on his public office record on civil rights.
As such, his views not only on racism but also on LGBT rights will be addressed given that the next DOJ chief will head the civil rights division.
As senator, he’s been on record saying that same-sex marriage threatens American culture. Likewise, he once accused the Supreme Court for unconstitutional “overreach” with the right to marriage equality and said it was an “effort to secularize, by force and intimidation.”
He likewise opposed the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd, Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act of 2009– which gave federal government the power to prosecute anti-LGBT hate crime– and the Employment Non-Discrimination Act.
He was one of the many co-sponsors of the First Amendment Defense Act (FADA)– which gives “a right to discriminate” against the LGBT and women– and voted against the repeal of the “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy in the military.
The Human Right Campaign (HRC) has warned that Sessions “has been on the wrong side of every civil rights issue in his long political career.”
“It is deeply disturbing that Jeff Sessions, who has such clear animus against so many Americans– including the LGBTQ community, women, and people of color– could be charged with running the very system of justice designed to protect them,” said HRC president Chad Griffin in a press release.
Jeff Sessions as Alabama attorney general
During his stint as the Alabama attorney general, Sessions once launched a public campaign to stop a gay rights group from holding a conference at the University of Alabama in 1996.
He used a 1992 state law making it illegal for public universities to support a group promoting “actions prohibited by the sodomy and sexual misconduct laws” in an attempt to block the Southeastern Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual College Conference from being held.
Fortunately, a federal judge, US District Judge Myron Thompson, had then struck down the 1992 law as unconstitutional, calling it “an open effort by the State Legislature to limit the sexuality discussion in institutions of higher learning to only one viewpoint: that of heterosexual people. This viewpoint limitation violates the first amendment.”
Sessions’ further efforts to continue blocking the conference was in vain, and the conference pushed through with increased attendance.
“It was probably better attended than it would have been. So, in some ways what they did backfired,” Cathy Lopez Wessel, a conference organizer told CNN.