Friday, November 18, 2016

Jeff Sessions’ Disturbing Record on Civil Rights, LGBT Equality

As I note frequently, I lived in Alabama years ago and among other things had the opportunity as a young lawyer to meet then Gov. George Wallace (and Bear Bryant).  While Wallace repented for his racist, many in Alabama have not.  Indeed, Alabama today is far more racist and reactionary that it was during my years of residence.   And when it comes to politics, the state has sunk into the misogynist swamp that goes hand in hand with the rise of the Christofascists.  Politicians who could never have been elected 35-40 years ago because they were too backward and reactionary now fill a majority of seats in the state legislature.  All of which brings me to Jeff Sessions, Donald Trump's pick for United States Attorney General, a man with a well documented racist and anti-LGBT history.  Civil rights organizations have good reason to be upset with Sessions' selection.  Lest people forget, he was too extreme even back in the days of Ronald Reagan and could not win Senate confirmation. Gay City News has put together a compilation of just how unfit Sessions is for this office.  Here are highlights:  
Jeff Sessions, the four-term Republican US senator from Alabama who has been tapped by President-elect Donald Trump as the nation’s next attorney general, has a stridently anti-LGBT record, along with a troubling history on racial issues.
Much of the recent attention on Sessions, who this week had been discussed as a possible choice for a number of Cabinet slots, including secretary of defense, focused on his incendiary comments about race – a key factor in the Republican-controlled Senate Judiciary Committee’s rejection of his 1986 nomination to the federal bench by President Ronald Reagan.
Sessions also has a uniform record in opposing LGBT rights advances.
“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,” Chad Griffin, president of the Human Rights Campaign, said in a written statement today.
In HRC Congressional Scorecards dating back more than a decade, Sessions received scores of zero for every two-year session, except for the 112th Congress in 2011 and 2012, when he received a 15 percent rating. In that Congress, he voted in favor of President Barack Obama’s nomination of J. Paul Oetken to the Southern District of New York federal bench, making him the first out gay man to win confirmation as an Article III judge.
In that same Congress, however, Sessions voted to deny confirmation to Alison J. Nathan, an out lesbian who was another Obama nomination, also recommended by Schumer, to the Southern District. He also voted in favor of an unsuccessful amendment to the Violence Against Women Reauthorization Act (VAWA) that would have stripped nondiscrimination protections for domestic violence victims based on their sexual orientation, gender identity, and Native American and immigrant status.
In other years, Sessions voted in favor of a Constitutional ban on same-sex marriage, and against the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act and the repeal of Don’t Ask Don’t Tell. He consistently voted against VAWA Reauthorization . . .
Sessions also opposed the end of the ban on HIV-positive visitors and immigrants to the US and supported a measure that would have required the District of Columbia to hold a referendum on its 2009 municipal ordinance legalizing marriage by same-sex couples. During the past two years, he opposed measures ensuring that legally married same-sex couples have access to Social Security and veterans benefits, that runaway and homeless youth programs funded by the federal government have explicit LGBT nondiscrimination policies, and that public schools be barred from discriminating against youth based on sexual orientation or gender identity.
[I]n the days after the US Supreme Court issued its 2015 Obergefell marriage equality ruling, Sessions told an Alabama Chamber of Commerce meeting, “If a court can do that on a question of marriage then it can do it on almost any other issue. What this court did was unconstitutional, what this court did – they can’t do, nothing in the Constitution for such a result, no mention of marriage in the Constitution.
Since the Obergefell ruling, Sessions has signed on to the First Amendment Defense Act, which would provide an out for those claiming a religious objection to same-sex marriage or to sex outside of different-sex marriage from any federal prosecution or penalties for discrimination. The measure would shield recalcitrant county clerks like Kim Davis in Kentucky who refuse to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples, but could also provide exemptions for all kinds of other businesses and individuals to discriminate.
During the George W. Bush administration, Sessions was the senator behind to the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals nomination of William H. Pryor, Jr., whom Lambda Legal termed “the most demonstrably anti-gay judicial nominee in recent memory.” As Alabama’s attorney general, Pryor had written a friend-of-the-court brief defending the Texas sodomy law when it went before the Supreme Court – and was struck down – in 2003. In that brief, he compared gay rights claims to protections for “prostitution, adultery, necrophilia, bestiality, possession of child pornography, and even incest and pedophilia.”
An opponent of the Voting Rights Act and immigration reform, Sessions also faces harsh criticism from progressive groups working on those issues, with the American Civil Liberties Union terming his record anti-civil rights.
During hearings for his failed federal bench nomination in 1986, Thomas Figures, an African-American former assistant attorney who worked under him when Sessions was the US attorney for the Southern District of Alabama, testified that Sessions had called him “boy” and warned him to be careful what he said to “white folks.” Sessions denied using the word “boy” and said he merely urged caution in talking to “folks.”
Gerry Hebert, who as a Justice Department official also worked with Sessions while he was a US attorney in the 1980s, recalled that Sessions had once agreed with another person’s comment that a white civil rights attorney was “a disgrace to his race” for litigating voting rights cases.  “I filed all these things away thinking, ‘God, what a racist this guy is,’” Hebert told the AP.
The man is horrible.  As for his judicial nominee, there seems to be evidence that he is a closeted, self-loathing gay man much like Rick Santorum and Ken Cuccinelli.  He's a tad too hysterical on the issue of gays for something more to be going on.  

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