Metro Weekly

Trump nominates anti-gay Alabama senator for Attorney General

Sen. Jeff Sessions was once denied a federal judgeship because of racist comments

U.S. Sen. Jeff Sessions - Photo: Gage Skidmore.
U.S. Sen. Jeff Sessions – Photo: Gage Skidmore.

Trump Cabinet and Adviser Threat Gauge

Name: Jeff Sessions

Position: Attorney General

LGBT record: Opposed lifting “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy for the military; opposes marriage equality, partner benefits for LGBT couples, employment nondiscrimination, and LGBT hate crime protections. Supported a constitutional amendment to ban same-sex marriage.

Threat Level: 🔥 🔥 🔥 🔥 🔥 — Scorched Earth

President-elect Donald Trump has offered U.S. Sen. Jefferson Beauregard Sessions III (R-Ala.) the job of Attorney General, according to The New York Times. Sessions, who was also under consideration for the Secretary of Defense post, has a colorful history when it comes to civil rights, and is sure to get pushback from Democrats over his past comments.

Sessions was nominated by President Ronald Reagan for a federal judgeship in 1986. But his nomination was rejected by a Republican-controlled Senate Judiciary Committee because of comments he made during his time as a federal prosecutor in Alabama. The rejection by the committee gave Sessions a mark of distinction, becoming one of only two judicial nominees to be rejected by the committee in the 50 years prior to 1986.

According to testimony offered during Sessions’ nomination, he had referred to the NAACP, the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, the American Civil Liberties Union, and other civil rights organizations as “un-American” and “Communist-inspired.” He criticized the Voting Rights Act for placing stringent oversight measures on Southern states to ensure that racial minorities were allowed to vote.

During the Judiciary Committee’s hearings, an African-American federal prosecutor, Thomas Figures, testified that Sessions had referred to him as “boy” and had said that the Ku Klux Klan was fine “until I found out they smoked pot.” Sessions later insisted that the comment was meant as a joke.

During his time in the Senate, Sessions has cultivated an anti-LGBT voting record, in particular objecting to efforts to repeal the military’s now-defunct “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy and implying that allowing gays and lesbians to serve openly put military readiness at risk. He also opposed the addition of LGBT people as a protected class under the federal hate crimes act, voted for a constitutional amendment to ban same-sex marriage, and has voted against same-sex partner benefits and employment protections for LGBT people.

“Jeff Sessions has never met a pro-LGBT piece of legislation that he liked, and he’s never met an anti-LGBT piece of legislation he didn’t co-sponsor,” says David Stacy, director of government affairs for the Human Rights Campaign. “The idea that he would be Attorney General … is absolutely terrifying.”

The news of Sessions’ selection comes as the president-elect has offered the position of national security adviser to retired Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn and has tapped U.S. Rep. Mike Pompeo (R-Kansas) to head the CIA. While Flynn, a former Democrat who was once under consideration as Trump’s vice president, told ABC’s Martha Raddatz that allowing same-sex marriage would not “cause our country to collapse,” the socially conservative Pompeo has been racked up an anti-LGBT record during his three terms in Congress. Pompeo is also a close ally of Vice President-elect Mike Pence, who is known for his own long record of anti-LGBT activism.

“At least it’s only four years as Attorney General, instead of being on the Supreme Court, which is what I heard he was interested in,” Earl Fowlkes, an African-American and the LGBT Caucus Chair for the Democratic National Committee, says of Sessions’ nomination, which he calls “one of the most egregious” picks for a cabinet position.

“This is certainly not a step forward for the LGBTQ community,” Fowlkes adds. “And god forbid, if you’re a transgender man or woman, what that means for you. We’re going to get no sympathy from this attorney general, if you’re a person of color, if you’re LGBTQ. There’s going to be very little justice in the Justice Department for the next four years.”

 

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John Riley is the local news reporter for Metro Weekly. He can be reached at jriley@metroweekly.com

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