Several times during his confirmation hearings today, anti-LGBT discrimination and LGBT rights were up for discussion.
In Sessions’ opening statement, he said “I understand the demands for justice and fairness made by our LGBT community” though his past actions reveal that he has fought against justice and fairness for the LGBT community at every turn.
Understanding something is not the same as siding with it.
Sessions: I will ensure civil rights protections for African-Americans, women and LGBT people if attorney general https://t.co/eNEbpB1Ly7
— NBC News (@NBCNews) January 10, 2017
Sessions may understand the LGBT community’s concerns, but he opposes them.
The Alabama senator has been a vocal opponent of marriage equality. He also grilled then Supreme Court nominee Elena Kagan on her opposition to ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell during her senate confirmation hearings and said he would do crack cocaine at Sonia Sotomayor’s hearings. He also opposed the Matthew Shepard hate crimes act and supports the First Amendment Defense Act, the heinous bill that would allow businesses to cite religious beliefs as justification to discriminate against LGBT people. In 1996, as Alabama’s attorney general, Sessions fought tooth and nail to stop the Southeastern Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual College Conference from meeting at the University of Alabama but did not prevail.
When asked during the confirmation hearings, Sessions said that he would “follow” the Supreme Court’s ruling on same-sex marriage.
Considering that he has only supported Supreme Court candidates that oppose marriage equality, the statement is meaningless. If a new SCOTUS were to rule against marriage equality, his past actions show he’d be even more willing to “follow” that court’s ruling.
Finally, Sessions was asked by Senator Patrick Leahy (D-VT) about the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd Hate Crimes Act, which he strongly opposed.
In an appalling display for someone about to become the nation’s chief law enforcement officer, Sessions danced around his past statements that LGBT individuals don’t face discrimination or hate crimes, refusing to repudiate those statements.
Here’s our transcript:
LEAHY: In 2009 I offered the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd Hate Crimes Prevention Act…you opposed it…you stated at a hearing that you’re not sure women or people of different sexual orientations face that kind of discrimination. And then you said ‘I just don’t see it.’ Do you still believe that women and LGBT individuals do not face the kind of discrimination that the hate crimes legislation was passed to prevent?”
SESSIONS: “Having discussed that issue at some length that does not sound like something I said or intended to say.”
LEAHY: “You did say it.”
SESSIONS: “I understand but I’ve seen things taken out of context and not given an accurate picture. My view is and was a concern that it appeared that these cases were being prosecuted effectively in state courts where they were normally be expected to be prosecuted. I asked Attorney General Holder to list cases that he had that indicated they were not being properly prosecuted…I noted that Mr Byrd was given the death penalty in Texas for his offense, and Mr Shepard, there were two life sentences imposed as a result of the situation in his state. So the question simply was do we have a problem that requires an expansion of federal law into an area that the federal government has not been historically involved. Senator Hatch had a proposal that we do a study to see the extent of the problem and that we should have evidence that indicates a shortage of prosecutions and a lack of willingness to prosecute before adding this law.”
LEAHY: “Last year the FBI said that LGBT individuals were more likely to be targeted for hate crimes than any other minority group in the country. We can study this forever but that’s a pretty strong fact. And in 2010 you stated that expanding hate crimes protections to LGBT individuals was unwarranted, possibly unconstitutional. You said the bill has been said to cheapen the civil rights movement. Especially considering what the FBI is found, do you still feel that way?”
SESSIONS: “Mr. Chairman the law has been passed, the Congress has spoken, you can be sure I will enforce it.”