When Jeff Sessions was nominated for attorney general, LGBT and other civil rights groups quickly predicted he’d be a disaster. He’s certainly proved them right.
Sessions, now facing calls for his resignation because he lied in his confirmation hearings about communications with Russia during Donald Trump’s presidential campaign, has managed to do a great deal of damage in less than a month on the job, in which he heads the Department of Justice.
Last week Sessions joined Education Secretary Betsy DeVos in revoking federal guidelines on actions schools should take to make sure they’re not discriminating against transgender students. The Justice and Education departments had issued the guidelines last year, under President Obama. But the Trump appointees moved swiftly to withdraw them.
DeVos, even though she hasn’t exactly been a vocal ally to LGBT people, was reportedly reluctant about rescinding the guidelines. Sessions, who had a terrible record on LGBT issues as a U.S. senator and in other positions he’s held, was strongly in favor of the move, as was Trump. And they carried the day.
Even before the guidelines were revoked, the Sessions-led Justice Department had backed off on defending them in lawsuits brought by several states, switching the position the department had taken under Obama. The department did the same in a voting rights case this week.
Under Obama, the Department of Justice had argued that a voter ID law in Texas should be struck down because it was designed to discriminate against racial minorities. Tuesday, DOJ attorneys asked a federal court to dismiss a lawsuit brought against the statute.
And Sessions “had the gall to give a speech on Black History Month at the Department of Justice, where he praised the Voting Rights Act on the same day the Justice Department argued in federal court that Texas’s voter-ID law did not intentionally discriminate against black and Latino voters,” The Nation reports.
Also that day, Sessions said the Justice Department would “pull back” on suing police departments for violating minority rights. The practice had been “employed aggressively under President Obama,” NBC News notes.
And on Monday, Sessions had said the department will review its policy on enforcing marijuana laws. Under the previous administration, investigations and prosecutions had focused on dealers and criminal gangs involved in distribution, not casual users. He further denounced states that have legalized recreational marijuana use and implied they could face repercussions from the federal government.
He also has reversed the Justice Department’s policy of not using private prisons, something adopted during Obama’s presidency. Privately run prisons are frequently criticized for violating the civil rights of inmates, and previous leaders of the Justice Department deemed them less safe and effective than government facilities.
Sessions has “put the Trump administration on the wrong side of every major issue when it comes to civil rights, the Constitution, and the rule of law,” The Nation asserts. He should resign or be fired “for the good of the country,” the magazine concludes.