WASHINGTON ― He claimed he supported LGBTQ rights on the campaign trail, but President-elect Donald Trump just tapped one of the most anti-gay politicians in Washington to be the nation’s next top lawyer.
Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.), whom Trump announced last week as his choice for U.S. attorney general, has consistently opposed pro-LGBTQ legislation throughout his 20 years in Congress.
He voted in support of a constitutional ban on same-sex marriage, against taking up a bill providing workplace discrimination protections for LGBTQ people, against repealing the military’s “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy, and ― two times ― against expanding the definition of hate crimes to include attacks on people because of their sexual orientation and gender identity.
In 2014, a year after the Supreme Court struck down part of the now-defunct Defense of Marriage Act, Sessions co-sponsored a bill that would allow the state definition of marriage to supersede the federal definition.
Sessions is currently co-sponsoring the First Amendment Defense Act, an extreme measure that would allow any taxpayer-funded organization to ignore laws that conflict with its religious beliefs about marriage. It opens the door to all kinds of discrimination against LGBTQ people. A state-contracted counselor, for example, could deny services to a lesbian mom. Taxpayer-funded adoption agencies could refuse to place children with same-sex married couples. Government employees could decline to file official forms for gay couples (see: Kim Davis, who went to jail for doing this).
The Human Rights Campaign keeps an annual scorecard of how lawmakers fare on LGBTQ issues. Sessions’ score, year after year: zero.
His record on civil rights is equally dismal. In addition to opposing the reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act, he was rejected for a federal judgeship in 1986 over allegations that he called a black attorney “boy,” suggested a white lawyer working for black clients was a race traitor and joked that the only issue he had with members of the Ku Klux Klan was their drug use.
“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 Chad Griffin, the president of Human Rights Campaign.
Sessions still has to be confirmed by the Senate. But his party controls the chamber and his current colleagues will be voting on his nomination, so he’s got a strong chance of making it through.
His immediate business as attorney general would include taking over the Justice Department’s lawsuit against North Carolina’s anti-LGBTQ law, HB 2, which bars transgender people from using public bathrooms that match their gender identity.