October 31, 2020 The Newspaper Serving LGBT Los Angeles

Antigay, racist Alabama Senator Jeff Sessions tapped as Trump’s Attorney General

Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.) (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)
Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.) (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

BY CHRIS JOHNSON  |  President-elect Donald Trump has selected as his attorney general an Alabama Republican who not only was once denied a seat on the federal judiciary for allegedly making racist comments, but has been hostile to LGBT rights over the course of his career.
On Friday, Trump announced in a statement Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.), an early supporter of the president-elect during the Republican presidential primary, would be his choice for attorney general.

“It is an honor to nominate U.S. Sen. Jeff Sessions to serve as Attorney General of the United States,” Trump said. “Jeff has been a highly respected member of the U.S. Senate for 20 years. He is a world-class legal mind and considered a truly great attorney general and U.S. attorney in the state of Alabama. Jeff is greatly admired by legal scholars and virtually everyone who knows him.”

Prior to his tenure in the U.S. Senate starting in 1997, former President Reagan nominated Sessions in 1986 for a seat on the federal judiciary in Alabama, but his nomination was rejected over accusations of racism.

Among the lawyers who testified against Sessions at the time said Sessions called the NAACP and the American Civil Liberties Union “un-American” and “Communist-inspired” and said they “forced civil rights down the throats of people.”

Thomas Figures, a black assistant U.S. attorney, testified Sessions said the Ku Klux Klan was “OK until I found out they smoked pot.” (Sessions said he was joking, but apologized for the remark.) Figures also said Sessions called him “boy” and that Sessions advised him to “be careful what you say to white folks.” Sessions was also reported to have called a white civil rights attorney a “disgrace to his race” for defending black clients.

Sessions denied the allegations, said his remarks were taken out of context or meant in jest. He also said that groups could be considered un-American when “they involve themselves in un-American positions” on foreign policy.

Anthony Romero, executive director of the ACLU, said in a statement his organization would “flatly reject” any assertion from Sessions the ACLU is “un-American and communist.”

“His positions on LGBT rights, capital punishment, abortion rights, and presidential authority in times of war have been contested by the ACLU and other civil rights organizations,” Romero said. “As the nation’s highest-ranking law enforcement official, the attorney general is charged with protecting the rights of all Americans. In his confirmation hearings, senators, the media, and the American public should closely examine his stances on these key issues to ensure we can have confidence in his ability to uphold the Constitution and our laws on behalf of all Americans.”

Decades later during his tenure in the U.S. Senate, Sessions resisted LGBT rights advancements. In each of the Human Rights Campaign’s congressional scorecards, Sessions has generally scored “0” for each Congress in which he served. (The one exception was the 112th Congress, when Sessions obtained a score of “15” for voting to confirm U.S. District Judge J. Paul Oetken, who became the first openly gay male to serve on the federal judiciary.)

Among his earlier votes in 2004 and 2006 in the Senate were for a U.S. constitutional amendment that would have banned same-sex marriage nationwide and prevented the U.S. Supreme Court last year from ruling in favor of marriage equality.
A member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, Sessions was among those most outspoken against “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” repeal along with Sens. John McCain (R-Ariz.) and Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.). During a Senate hearing in December 2010 as Congress debated repeal, Sessions called the issue a “difficult discussion.”

“It was predicted it would have some disruptive effect on the military,” Sessions said. “I believe it probably has. It’s probably not been good for morale and problems have arisen from it, and I’m inclined to the personal views that ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ has been pretty effective and I’m dubious about the change, although I fully recognize that good people could disagree on that subject.”

Upon the U.S. Supreme Court decision last year in favor of same-sex marriage nationwide, Sessions told WKRG-TV in Alabama he opposed the decision because “if a court can do that on a question of marriage then it can do it on almost any other issue.”
“I think what this court did was unconstitutional,” Sessions said. “There’s nothing in the Constitution that requires such a result. No mention of marriage in the Constitution.”

More recently, Sessions voted against the Employment Non-Discrimination Act when it came before the Senate in 2013 and became a co-sponsor of the First Amendment Defense Act, a federal “religious freedom” bill that would enable anti-LGBT discrimination.

Notably, last year when the Pentagon announced it would initiate a review that would lead to the end of its ban on openly transgender people in the U.S. armed forces, Sessions had no comment. Asked by the Washington Blade on Capitol Hill about the development, Sessions said, “I saw that, but I’m not aware of any of the details.”

Asked whether the change sounded like something he could support, Sessions replied, “Well, I’d like to see what the military says about it. I have not done that.”

Tony Perkins, president of the anti-LGBT Family Research Council, said in a statement Trump made “another wise selection” with the choice of Sessions as attorney general.

“President-elect Trump has surrounded himself with solid advisers, and his selection of Sen. Sessions for attorney general increases my confidence that the Trump administration will be one that cherishes the Constitution and its protection of our freedom from government oppression,” Perkins said. “Sen. Sessions understands the importance of all of our God-given rights, respects the rule of law, and will be a vital part of restoring our nation to its greatness.”

Sessions’ appointment is subject to Senate confirmation. Under the rules instituted by Sen. Harry Reid (D-Nev.) when he served as a majority leader of the chamber, ending a filibuster on confirmation would require a bare majority of 51 votes. Another 51 votes are necessary to confirm him to the seat.

Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.), top Democrat on the Senate Judiciary Committee, said in a statement the attorney general is “the chief protector of civil rights and civil liberties for everyone,” which he said is especially important at a time “when hate crimes have spiked across the country, especially against Muslim and LGBTQ Americans.”

“Sen. Sessions and I have had significant disagreements over the years, particularly on civil rights, voting rights, immigration and criminal justice issues,” Leahy said. “But unlike Republicans’ practice of unprecedented obstruction of President Obama’s nominees, I believe nominees deserve a full and fair process before the Senate. The American people deserve to learn about Senator Sessions’ record at the public Senate Judiciary Committee hearing.”

If the Senate confirms Sessions, he would immediately be given the opportunity to rescind ongoing actions at U.S. Justice Department on behalf of LGBT rights.

Likely the first to go is joint guidance from the Justice Department and the Education Department under the Obama administration instructing that discrimination against transgender students, such as barring them from the restroom consistent with their gender identity, contravenes federal law. Trump made rescinding that guidance a campaign promise.
Also on the chopping block is a lawsuit U.S. Attorney General Loretta Lynch filed against North Carolina’s House Bill 2, which bars transgender people from using the restroom consistent with their gender identity. Even if that were the case, litigation in federal court filed by Lambda Legal and the ACLU against the statute would remain ongoing.
If the Obama administration files a friend-of-the-court brief before the Supreme Court on behalf of a Virginia transgender student who’s challenging his school for barring him from using the restroom consistent with his gender identity, the Justice Department could withdraw that filing.
Sessions could also reverse the memo from former U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder declaring the Justice Department interpreting Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 as applicable to “discrimination based on gender identity, including transgender status.” That memo has served as the basis for Justice Department actions against transgender discrimination, such as a lawsuit filed against Southeastern Oklahoma State University alleging anti-trans discrimination in the workforce.
Chad Griffin, president of the Human Rights Campaign, said in a statement Trump’s selection of Sessions as attorney general is troubling.
“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,” Griffin said. “When Donald Trump was elected, he promised to be a president for all Americans, and it is hugely concerning and telling that he would choose a man so consistently opposed to equality as one of his first — and most important — cabinet appointees.”

Related Posts

WeHo Carnaval 2020 Cancelled

October 29, 2020

October 29, 2020

One of the year’s biggest events in West Hollywood, The Halloween Carnaval, has been cancelled.  The massive Halloween party has...

Undocumented LGBTQ Activist Puts An Emphasis On Voting

October 29, 2020

October 29, 2020

Queer and undocumented filmmaker Armando Ibañez is releasing the videos of 9 undocumented LGTQ+ activists speaking on the importance of...

Family-Owned CBD Brand Remedio Wellness

October 29, 2020

October 29, 2020

Family-owned CBD brand Remedio Wellness launches carefully formulated products harnessing the power of nature and hemp.  Remedio Wellness was founded...

J.K Rowling Trans Phobic Rhetoric – E.P.I.C Pride Show, October, 28, 2020

October 28, 2020

October 28, 2020

E.P.I.C Pride, Highlighting the latest LGBTQ news in Entertainment, Politics, International affairs, and Culture.  -J.K Rowling More Transphobic Rhetoric  -Beauty...

WeHo Launches “Masks Are…” PSA

October 25, 2020

October 25, 2020

The City of West Hollywood has had a mandatory face-covering requirement in effect since late May 2020 and has been...

Gays For Donald Trump March In WeHo

October 25, 2020

October 25, 2020

On Oct. 23 2020 a march, organized by the Log Cabin Republicans, a group of gay Republicans, rallied to proclaim...

East Hollywood Man Appearing on Wheel Of Fortune

October 22, 2020

October 22, 2020

Tim Quinn, an East Hollywood resident, will be a contestant on the hit TV show Wheel of Fortune on Wednesday,...

Anti-Bullying Campaign #HatNotHate

October 22, 2020

October 22, 2020

Anti-Bullying Campaign #HatNotHate, which takes a grassroots, donation-based approach to combating bullying, and is especially active in October, which is...

RuPauls Drag Race Raven Wins First Emmy – E.P.I.C Pride Show, October, 21, 2020

October 21, 2020

October 21, 2020

E.P.I.C Pride, Highlighting the latest LGBTQ news in Entertainment, Politics, International affairs, and Culture.  -RuPauls Drag Race Raven Wins First...

UC Riverside Study Finds Same-Sex Couples Interact Better

October 18, 2020

October 18, 2020

University of California, Riverside a doctoral research university, held a study which found that Same-gender couples have higher-quality interactions with...

Campus Pride 2020

October 18, 2020

October 18, 2020

Campus Pride commemorates LGBTQ History Month and National Coming Out Day by releasing its 2020 BEST OF THE BEST LGBTQ-Friendly...

LGBTQ Foster Youth In L.A. Falling Through The Cracks

October 18, 2020

October 18, 2020

A topic that has not garnered as much attention as it should is that of foster youth in Los Angeles...

AIDS Memorial Quilt Virtual Exhibition

October 15, 2020

October 15, 2020

The National AIDS Memorial is announcing a virtual exhibition of the AIDS Memorial Quilt (the Quilt) that will feature more...

Gold Coast Bar Closing Permanently:  E.P.I.C Pride Show, October, 14, 2020

October 14, 2020

October 14, 2020

E.P.I.C Pride highlighting the latest LGBTQ news in Entertainment, Politics, International affairs, and Culture.  -Gold Coast Bar in WeHo Closing...

National Coming Out Day

October 11, 2020

October 11, 2020

Thirty-two years ago, on the anniversary of the National March on Washington for Lesbian and Gay Rights, National Coming Out...