Washington, DC — Today, 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," said Sharon McGowan, Director of Strategy for Lambda Legal, and former senior career attorney with the Civil Rights Division of the Department of Justice.
"DOJ's war on civil rights grows without restraint," McGowan continued. "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."
Sessions' transgressions against LGBT Americans during his first nine months in office include:
Rescinded the Obama administration's 2016 Title IX guidance detailing protections for transgender students under Title IX.
Appointed Steve Cook, a notoriously racist former federal prosecutor in support of lengthy prison sentences ( even for nonviolent crimes ), as associate deputy attorney general.
Abandoned its defense of the nondiscrimination provisions in the Affordable Care Act protecting transgender people from discrimination in healthcare.
Withdrew a motion for preliminary injunction against North Carolina's anti-transgender House Bill 2, which had — until then — prevented the state from enforcing the law.
Cancelled a long-planned National Institute of Corrections broadcast on "Transgender Persons in Custody: The Legal Landscape."
Announced review ( and likely scaling back ) of consent decrees designed to address systemic police violence.
Cancelled important quarterly conference calls with LGBTQ organizations.
Abandoned their lawsuit against North Carolina's discriminatory anti-LGBTQ House Bill 2.
Ordered federal prosecutors to pursue the toughest possible charges and sentences, even for nonviolent crimes, reigniting the racist "War on Drugs."
Defended Donald Trump's "Muslim Ban" in federal court.
Attacked and attempted to shut down the Northwest Immigrant Rights Project ( NWIRP ) a legal services advocacy group that opposes Donald Trump's "Muslim Ban."
Asked the Supreme Court to let Donald Trump's "Muslim Ban" take effect.
Advanced, with Jeff Sessions' blessing, the nomination of Eric Dreiband, a lifelong opponent of civil rights, to head the DOJ's Civil Rights Division.
Switched sides in a Texas voter ID challenge to join forces with Texas Attorney General and defend a racially discriminatory law.
Filed a brief at the U.S. Second Circuit Court of Appeals arguing that the Civil Rights Act does not protect workers against discrimination based on sexual orientation.
Ordered a push to investigate and sue universities over affirmative action admissions policies deemed to "discriminate" against white applicants.
Supported voter suppression efforts in Ohio.
Continuously refused to release information about the decision to withdraw guidance detailing the protections transgender students have under Title IX, despite Freedom of Information Act ( FOIA ) requests.
Targeted 800,000 young people for deportation by announcing the rescission of DACA.
Argued against LGB employees at the U.S. Second Circuit Court of Appeals.
Filed a brief at the United States Supreme Court arguing for the constitutional right of businesses to discriminate against LGBT people.
Outlined plans to undermine due process for immigrants.
Reversed DOJ position that federal law protects transgender workers from discrimination.
Released the sweeping "License to Discriminate" guidance, outlining a pathway for discrimination against LGBT people, women and religious minorities.
Sought to dismiss the claims of transgender military service members against Donald Trump's "Transgender Military Ban" by arguing that nothing bad had really happened to them ( yet ).
For further information, or to speak with a representative of Lambda Legal, please contact Tom Zigo at firstname.lastname@example.org .