The Human Rights Campaign and the National LGBTQ Task Force are among the 144 civil rights organizations that have urged the U.S. Senate not to confirm U.S. Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.)’s nomination to become the country’s next attorney general.
The letter — which the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights sent to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), Senate Democratic Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.), Senate Judiciary Committee Chair Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) and Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) on Thursday — notes Sessions opposed the 2009 law that added sexual orientation and gender identity to the federal hate crimes statute.
“This is particularly disturbing at a time when there have reportedly been more than 700 hate incidents committed in the weeks since the election,” reads the letter. “The next
attorney general must recognize that hate crimes exist, and vigorously investigate them.”
The letter notes Sessions supported a proposed constitutional amendment that would have banned same-sex marriage. It also indicates the Alabama Republican opposed the repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.”
The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights notes the Senate Judiciary Committee in 1986 rejected Sessions’ nomination to serve on the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Alabama because of what it describes in its letter as “compelling evidence” of his “deeply troubling record as an opponent of civil rights enforcement, a champion of voter suppression tactics targeting African Americans and a history of making racially-insensitive statements.”
Those who spoke against Sessions during his confirmation hearing said he described the NAACP and the American Civil Liberties Union as “un-American” and “Communist-inspired.” The Alabama Republican also has a documented history of referring to a black assistant U.S. attorney as “boy” and speaking favorably of the Ku Klux Klan.
“As you know, the attorney general is our nation’s highest law enforcement official, with a particular responsibility to protect the civil and human rights of all Americans,” reads the letter.
The letter notes Sessions is associated with groups the Alabama-based Southern Poverty Law Center has designated as hate groups. It also notes he supports voter ID laws that critics contend disenfranchise voters and has opposed abortion rights, among other issues.
“The collegiality that ordinarily governs Senate decorum is no substitute for, and must not supersede, the Senate’s profoundly important duty to vigorously and fairly review each nominee who comes before it,” reads the letter. “We believe that based on this review, there can be only one conclusion: Senator Sessions is the wrong person to serve as the U.S. attorney general.”
The Family Equality Council, GLSEN, the National Black Justice Coalition, the National Center for Lesbian Rights, the National Center for Transgender Equality, the National Queer Asian Pacific Islander Alliance, and the Trevor Project also signed onto the letter.
The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights sent the letter to Senate leaders less than two weeks after President-elect Trump formally nominated Sessions to succeed current U.S. Attorney General Loretta Lynch.
Lynch in May filed a lawsuit against North Carolina over House Bill 2, which bans transgender people from using public restrooms that are consistent with their gender identity and prohibits local municipalities from enacting LGBT-inclusive nondiscrimination ordinances. The Justice and Education Departments under President Obama have told public schools they should allow trans students to use bathrooms that are consistent with their gender identity.
Trump said during the campaign that his administration would rescind this guidance.
The Washington Blade has reached out to the Trump transition team for comment.