Jeff Sessions Just Had to Answer to a Bunch of Senators over His Anti-LGBT Crusade

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October 18, 2017
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Attorney General Jeff Sessions
Photo by: C-SPAN

Lambda Legal blasted Attorney General Jeff Sessions’ testimony before the Senate Judiciary Committee, where Senators challenged Sessions’ efforts to roll back the civil rights of the most vulnerable Americans, including a number of policies, statements and actions directly targeting LGBT people, women, people of color, religious minorities and immigrants.

Sessions’ testimony comes just weeks after a series of high-profile attacks by DOJ against LGBT people, including its efforts to convince courts that federal laws prohibiting sex discrimination do not cover claims of discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity, its support of anti-LGBT groups’ efforts to shield businesses that want to deny service to LGBT people from the application of state and local non-discrimination laws (as outlined in a brief filed with the Supreme Court in September), and its directive to federal agencies to create broad licenses to discriminate on the basis of religion.

Jeff Sessions has weaponized the Department of Justice, and has used his authority to terrorize vulnerable communities, including LGBT people, Muslims and immigrants. In addition to his other offenses, Jeff Sessions has seized every opportunity to advance his goal of placing anti-LGBT discrimination in the workplace and the marketplace beyond the law’s reach, particularly when that discrimination is cloaked in the language of religious liberty.

DOJ’s war on civil rights grows without restraint. Its hostility has been aimed at women, people of color, religious minorities, immigrants and most notably LGBT people – whom Sessions has targeted since his first day on the job. He has made schools less safe for transgender children, workplaces less secure for LGBT employees and marketplaces less accessible to LGBT customers.

Jeff Sessions may try to obscure his anti-LGBT agenda by touting his interest in prosecuting anti-LGBT hate crimes, but the American people are not so easily duped. Jeff Sessions has been in the business of opposing equal rights for LGBT people for decades. Unfortunately, Jeff Sessions now has an army of Justice Department lawyers that he can commandeer to advance this agenda.

We call upon Congress to continue its oversight of the Department of Justice, but make no mistake about it: Lambda Legal stands ready to defend LGBT people against Jeff Sessions’ homophobic and transphobic agenda.

We are grateful to the Senators who called Jeff Sessions to account for the anti-LGBT positions that he has directed his Department of Justice to advance. Notwithstanding his empty words about not feeling any ‘hostility’ toward the LGBT community, Jeff Sessions’ answers today reveal his disdain for the civil rights of LGBT people. Specifically, Sessions repeatedly demonstrated his willingness to ignore case law with which he personally disagrees, including the case law holding that LGBT people are protected from discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity by existing non-discrimination laws forbidding sex discrimination.

Moreover, and in stark contrast to the leadership of former Attorneys General Eric Holder and Loretta Lynch, Jeff Sessions has charged his Department of Justice with making arguments in court designed to restrict the scope of protections under existing civil rights laws.

While Jeff Sessions talks about the need to ‘balance’ LGBT equality and religious freedom, there is no denying that Jeff Sessions has joined forces with those organizations seeking to rewrite the law to create a religious license to discriminate. There was clearly not enough time for the Senators to press for answers on all of the areas of concern with respect to Sessions’ assault on the civil rights of LGBT people and other communities.

The Senate must continue to keep a close eye on the Attorney General and demand that the Department of Justice get back into the business of doing justice, particularly for the LGBT community and the other groups that this Administration has targeted.