In 2010, Sessions voted against a law that expanded federal hate crimes protections to sexual orientation, arguing that there was insufficient evidence that local prosecutors were failing to pursue such cases.
Speaking at a Justice Department hate crimes summit in Washington yesterday, Sessions said “we have a responsibility to protect people’s freedom, their religious rights, their integrity, their ability to express themselves, to push back against violence and hate crimes that occur in our country.”
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He note specifically the duty to “enforce hate crime laws aggressively and appropriately where transgendered individuals are victims.”
The Attorney General noted the sentencing of a Mississippi man last month to 49 years in prison for the murder of a transgender teenager, the first federal hate crimes prosecution involving the targeting of a transgender victim.
According to Politico, Sessions also said he has been in contact with the Justice Department to ensure every effort is being made to assist in the investigations into a number of transgender murders in recent months.
“I personally met with the department’s senior leadership and the civil rights division to discuss a spate of murders — a number of murders around the country of transgendered individuals. A lot of concerns and questions were out there about how this was occurring and what we were doing about it.
“I specifically directed the files of these cases be reviewed to ensure there was not — no single person or group behind these attacks, these murders, or to what extent hate crime motivation in general may have been behind these attacks.”
Sessions referenced his 2010 vote, adding that as Attorney General he pledged at his confirmation hearings to vigorously enforce that law despite his previous opposition.
Watch Sessions’ speech in full below.