Last week, Trump set the United States back at least fifty years with the appointment of Jeff Sessions as Attorney General. Sessions was an Assistant United States Attorney in the Office of the United States Attorney for the Southern District of Alabama beginning in 1975. In 1981, President Reagan nominated Sessions to be the U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of Alabama. The Senate confirmed him and he held that position for 12 years. Sessions’ office investigated the 1981 killing of Michael Donald, a young African-American man who was murdered in Mobile, Alabama by a pair of Ku Klux Klan members. Session’s office did not prosecute the case, but both men were arrested and convicted.
Then in 1985, Sessions prosecuted three African American community organizers in the Black belt of Alabama, including Martin Luther King Jr’s former aide Albert Turner, for voter fraud. The prosecution stirred charges of selective prosecution of Black voter registration and was based on no more than 14 tampered ballots. The defendants, known as the Marion Three, were quickly acquitted. Interviewed in 2009, Sessions said he remained convinced that he did the right thing, but admitted he “failed to make the case.”
Sessions has referred to the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) and the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) as “un-American” and “Communist-inspired” because they “forced civil rights down the throats of people.” At his 1986 confirmation hearing for a US District Court seat, Thomas Figures, a black Assistant U.S. Attorney, testified that Sessions said he thought the Ku Klux Klan was “OK until I found out they smoked pot.” Whether what Figures testified to or not was true, it is readily apparent that Sessions cares little for civil rights other than those of his own race.
If his Civil Rights record wasn’t bad enough, Sessions as Alabama Attorney General became famous for outlawing sex toys in Alabama. Not a dildo could be bought, which left safe sex educators to be forced to use bananas to educate on the proper use of a condom. As Attorney General, Sessions also worked to deny funding to student Gay-Straight Alliances at The University of Alabama, Auburn University and The University of South Alabama, stating “an organization that professes to be comprised of homosexuals and/or lesbians may not receive state funding or use state-supported facilities to foster or promote those illegal, sexually deviate activities defined in the sodomy and sexual misconduct laws.” He accomplished little else in his two year tenure before becoming a senator.
As a Senator, he was one of nine Senators who voted against a Senate amendment to a House bill that prohibited cruel, inhumane, or degrading treatment or punishment of individuals in the custody or under the physical control of the United States Government. Sessions has taken a strong stand against any form of citizenship for illegal immigrants. Sessions was one of the most vocal critics of the Comprehensive Immigration Reform Act of 2007. He has advocated for expanded construction of a Southern border fence.
Furthermore, Sessions has been a vocal opponent of the National Endowment for the Humanities. He criticized the foundation for distributing books related to Islam to hundreds of U.S. libraries, saying “Using taxpayer dollars to fund education program grant questions that are very indefinite or in an effort to seemingly use Federal funds on behalf of just one religion, does not on its face appear to be the appropriate means to establish confidence in the American people that NEH expenditures are wise.”
Sessions has been an opponent of same-sex marriage and has earned a zero rating from the Human Rights Campaign, the United States’ largest LGBTQ advocacy group. He voted against the Matthew Shepard Act, which added acts of bias-motivated violence based on sexual orientation and gender identity to federal hate-crimes law, commenting that it “has been said to cheapen the civil rights movement” Sessions voted in favor of advancing the Federal Marriage Amendment in 2004 and 2006, a U.S. constitutional amendment which would have permanently restricted federal recognition of marriages to those between a man and a woman. Sessions voted against the Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell Repeal Act of 2010.
Sessions is against legalizing cannabis for either recreational or medicinal use. “I’m a big fan of the DEA”, he said during a hearing with the Senate Judiciary Committee. Sessions was “heartbroken” and found “it beyond comprehension” when President Obama claimed that cannabis is not as dangerous as alcohol. In April 2016, he said that it was important to foster “knowledge that this drug is dangerous, you cannot play with it, it is not funny, it’s not something to laugh about… and to send that message with clarity that good people don’t smoke marijuana.”
So when someone asks why are so many gays afraid of Trump? I can simply and easily point to Jefferson Beauregard Sessions III. The Attorney General is the safeguard of civil liberties and human rights in the United States, but Jeff Sessions does not believe in civil liberties or human rights. He is a bigot. Trump’s appointees so far have been largely bigots: Sessions, Bannon, and Flynn. How much more must he do before people realize we are in the process of losing fifty years of progress.