The nightmare continues: Donald Trump announced today that he will nominate Jeff Sessions, one of the most anti-LGBT members of the U.S. Senate, to be attorney general.
Sessions, an Alabama Republican, was the first senator to endorse Trump’s presidential bid and was a close adviser throughout his campaign. As attorney general, he would head the Department of Justice. His nomination was immediately denounced by LGBT groups and other progressives.
First elected to the Senate in 1996, Sessions “has been on the wrong side of every civil rights issue in his long political career,” the Human Rights Campaign noted in a press release. He voted to amend the U.S. Constitution to ban same-sex marriage; spoke out against the Supreme Court marriage equality ruling; voted against the Employment Non-Discrimination Act; is a cosponsor of the so-called First Amendment Defense Act, which would allow discrimination against LGBT people and others in the name of “religious freedom”; voted against the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd, Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act, which expanded the federal definition of hate crimes to include those based on sexual orientation, gender, and disability; and voted against repealing “don’t ask, don’t tell.”
Sessions also opposed the Voting Rights Act, has voted against reauthorizing the Violence Against Women Act, and opposes immigration reform. In 1986, when he was a U.S. attorney in Alabama and was being considered for a federal judgeship, he was dogged by accusations of racism, with former colleagues saying he used the n word and joked that he had no problem with the Ku Klux Klan “until he learned that they smoked marijuana,” The Washington Post reports. Sessions denied that he was racist.
“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 HRC president Chad Griffin in the press release. “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.”
Sessions has consistently scored zeroes on the HRC’s Congressional Scorecard, except in one session of Congress in which he voted to confirm a gay federal judge — his only gay-friendly action that session, which got him a score of 15 out of 100.
Kaitlin Sweeney, press secretary for the Progressive Change Campaign Committee, issued a statement saying that as attorney general, Sessions “would be the proverbial fox guarding the henhouse.” She continued, “Senate Democrats should be unified in opposition. Sessions has a history of racist remarks, calling a federal prosecutor ‘boy’ and calling the NAACP ‘un-American’ — and he opposes the Voting Rights Act and has draconian views on immigration. This makes him 100 percent unqualified to lead the Justice Department’'s civil rights and voting rights divisions.” She added that he “has consistently opposed reforming and challenging Wall Street, and cannot be trusted to prosecute Wall Street bankers who broke the law.”
Michael Keegan, president of People for the American Way, noted that the Senate rejected Sessions for the federal judgeship because of his alleged racism. “In the last 30 years, Sessions has done nothing that demonstrates that the Senate’s judgment was incorrect or that he’s learned from his mistakes,” Keegan said in a prepared statement. “Instead, he’s spent years making a name for himself as one of the Senate’s most extreme anti-immigrant voices, even attacking the Constitution’s guarantee of birthright citizenship. As a senator he’s voted in favor of torture programs under the Bush administration and opposed hate-crime protections for LGBT people. If anyone still thinks that Donald Trump might govern with more responsibility or moderation than he campaigned, this nomination is a wake-up call. The Senate should reject this nomination.”
“Picking someone with a documented history of racism and who has gone after voter registration groups to run the country’s highest law enforcement entity is disgraceful, unacceptable, and must be wholly condemned,” said Judith Browne Dianis, executive director of Movement Advancement Project’s national office. “During his campaign, Donald Trump repeatedly attacked communities of color, immigrants and LGBTQ people, among others. Offering Jeff Sessions the post of attorney general is how Trump comes through in his promise — we are witnessing how words morph into policies and practices that harm people of color. We will not be silent as government structures are turned into entities that can inflict damage on our communities, and we call on everyone to denounce this as unacceptable.”
Sessions “has no place leading our nation’s enforcement of civil rights and voting rights laws or implementing our nation’s desperately needed reforms to policing,” said a statement from Wade Henderson, president and CEO of the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights. “Either President-elect Trump should retract this announcement or the Senate should stand firm in rejecting another Sessions nomination.”
People for the American Way is organizing an anti-Sessions demonstration today at 4 p.m. Eastern at the U.S. Capitol.