Today, HRC released the following statement on the revelation that Senator Jeff Sessions — President-elect Donald Trump’s choice for U.S. Attorney General — led a campaign to block an LGBTQ student group from holding a conference at a public university while he was Alabama Attorney General. The news unearthed by CNN’s Andrew Kaczynski is just the latest evidence of Session’s long record of opposition to LGBTQ equality.
Yesterday, HRC and nearly 150 civil and human rights organizations sent a letter to U.S. Senators opposing the nomination of Sessions as U.S. Attorney General, and detailing his alarming record.
“As the chief law enforcement officer of the state of Alabama, Jeff Sessions unconscionably targeted LGBTQ students to deny them their First Amendment rights. The job of the U.S. Attorney General is to ensure and protect the freedom of all Americans. Senator Sessions is unfit to serve,” said HRC President Chad Griffin. “As a senator, Sessions earned a perfect 0 on our Congressional Scorecard, and he voted against hate crimes protections, against open military service and against marriage rights. Now we learn he’s attacked the rights of LGBTQ students. Nobody with such a clear record against equal rights for so many Americans should be entrusted with running the very system of justice designed to protect us all.”
In his 1996 campaign to block an LGBTQ student group from holding a conference at a public university, Sessions spoke out publicly and wrote to the University President in failed attempts to thwart the conference at the University of Alabama, which included workshops on HIV prevention, interfaith issues, and coming out. Claiming a state law compelled him to do so, Sessions sent a letter to the University President, demanding he, or the university’s board of trustees, cancel the conference, saying, “I intend to do everything I can to stop that conference.” A U.S. District Judge ruled otherwise, saying there was “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.”
In Congress, he voted for a Constitutional ban on marriage equality; spoke in opposition of the U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling in Obergefell; voted against the Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA); is a co-sponsor of the so-called First Amendment Defense Act (FADA), legislation that could allow Kim Davis-style discrimination against LGBTQ people across the nation; voted against repealing “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell”; and voted against both the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act and expanding hate crimes to include sexual orientation, gender identity, gender and disability. Sessions also opposed the Voting Rights Act, has voted against reauthorizing the Violence Against Women Act, opposes immigration reform, and has been on the wrong side of every civil rights issue in his long political career. Sessions received a zero on HRC’s congressional scorecard.
In 1986, Sessions’ nomination for a federal judgeship was rejected by the Republican-controlled Senate Judiciary Committee because of racially charged comments and actions; at the time, Sessions was one of two judicial nominees whose selections were halted by the panel in nearly 50 years. Now, 30 years later, Sessions will face a confirmation hearing from the same legislative body that denied him a federal judgeship.