US Attorney General nominee Jeff Sessions was confronted at his Senate confirmation hearing on Tuesday (10 January) about his votes against hate crimes protections for LGBTI people.
Sessions, a US senator from Alabama, was confronted by fellow Senator Patrick Leahy of Vermont with his own past words.
‘You stated at a hearing that you’re not sure women or people of different sexual orientations face that kind of discrimination. And then you said “I just don’t see it.” Do you still believe that?’ Leahy asked.
Sessions replied that it ‘does not sound like something I said or intended to say’ but Leahy was quick to cut in and make clear: ‘You did say it.’
Leahy went on to ask of Donald Trump’s nominee to be the nation’s chief law enforcement officer: ‘… In 2010 you stated that expanding hate crimes protections to LGBT individuals was unwarranted, possibly unconstitutional. … Do you still feel that way?’
Session replied: ‘The law has been passed, the Congress has spoken, you can be sure I will enforce it.’
Sessions voted against both the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act and against expanding hate crimes to include sexual orientation, gender identity, gender and disability.
Sessions also voted in favor of a constitutional ban on marriage equality but said during his hearing that he would ‘follow’ the US Supreme Court rulings.
In 2015, the high court made a ruling that resulted in same-sex marriage becoming legal in all 50 states.
Other Sessions anti-LGBTI votes as a senator include one against the Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA) and one against repealing Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell which prevented gay, lesbian and bisexual military personnel from serving openly.
Sessions is also a co-sponsor of the First Amendment Defense Act (FADA), ‘religious freedom’ legislation that could allow discrimination against LGBTI people across the nation.