Senator Jeff Sessions Chosen to Protect Our Civil Rights
On Friday, Donald Trump named Senator Jeff Sessions as his Attorney General. Trump, who promised in his election night speech to be a "President for all Americans,” has named a longtime opponent of hate crimes protections, voting rights protections, and LGBTQ and women’s rights as the nation’s top law enforcement officer. Sessions is yet another cabinet pick being lauded by white supremacists groups and denounced by civil rights organizations .
In 1986, Ronald Reagan nominated Jeff Sessions for a federal judgeship but the Senate Judiciary Committee deemed him unfit. Witnesses testifying during the confirmation hearing brought to light a number of racist remarks made by Sessions. Witnesses testified that Sessions referred to the Voting Rights Act as intrusive, called the NAACP (National Association for the Advancement of Colored People) and ACLU (American Civil Liberties Union) “un-American” for “forcing civil rights down the throats of people,” and referred to a white attorney who took on voting-rights cases as a “traitor to his race.” Today, the NAACP Legal Defense Fund called the appointment of Sessions as more evidence that Trump is selecting “individuals for his team that have a demonstrated record of hostility to equal rights and justice, and to civil rights.”
Throughout his political career, Jeff Sessions has consistently opposed equality measures. He deemed the same-sex marriage ruling as unconstitutional, co-sponsored the First Amendment Defense which seeks to prohibit the federal government from "taking discriminatory action" against a person who believes "in accordance with a religious belief or moral conviction that marriage is or should be recognized as the union of one man and one woman,” and voted against the repeal of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell. Sessions also 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.
Jeff Sessions record on women's rights is equally as dismal. He has consistently voted against abortion rights and has opposed legislation that would help female-owned businesses. In 2013, he voted against the reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act, which funds grant programs that help states combat domestic violence. Sessions also recently said it was a “stretch” to characterize Trump’s remarks about grabbing women by their genitals as sexual assault.
One of the first supporters of Donald Trump’s proposed ban on Muslims, Jeff Sessions is also extremely tough on immigration. Sessions is in favor of canceling federal funds to sanctuary cities and proposed a five year mandatory minimum sentence for anyone re-entering the country illegally after being deported, an action that could increase the federal prison population by an estimated 30 percent
White Nationalists welcome the appointment of Sessions. Andrew Anglin, editor of the neo-Nazi website The Daily Stormer wrote, “I think Trump is making a point by putting an aggressive anti-Black racist in as AG.” David Duke, former Ku Klux Klan leader, tweeted his hopes that Sessions will work with the senate to “stop the massive institutional race discrimination against whites.”
The Attorney General is the head of the Justice Department, the primary federal agency responsible for ensuring that Americans’ rights are protected. A man accused of racism, and who has a history of trying to set back women’s and LGBTQ rights, has been given this position. Somehow, a man who has fought against expanding equal rights to all Americans will be the one charged with protecting the civil rights of all Americans.