Day 1: Sen. Sessions’ Record Speaks Louder Than Anything He Said Yesterday

Over the course of more than three decades, Senator Sessions has been nothing if not consistent. For example, he described Roe v. Wade as one of the worst, “colossally erroneous Supreme Court decisions of all time” — and opposed legislation providing women access to reproductive care, including abortion and contraception, as well as opposed funding that would help protect abortion clinics from harassment and violence.
He voted against the 2014 reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act and voted to block the Military Justice Improvement Act, which would have increased protections from sexual assault for military members and removed the decision to prosecute sexual assault from the chain of command and placed it in the hands of trained, independent military prosecutors – and then stated that he wasn’t even sure that grabbing a woman by her genitals constitutes sexual assault.
He opposed the law which added violence based on bias against gender, sexual orientation, gender identity and disability to federal hate crimes legislation, voted for an amendment to the Violence Against Women Act that would have removed protections for LGBTQ individuals (and voted against the final bill that included those protections), voted for a constitutional amendment that would define marriage as between one man and one woman, and voted for an amendment to the Employment Non-Discrimination Act that would have gutted protections against employment discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity by exempting religiously affiliated employers from the law.
Yesterday, Senator Sessions’ testimony was supposed to convince us that 30-plus years of hostility to a broad swath of women’s rights and civil rights doesn’t mean that Senator Sessions wouldn’t do a terrific job defending our legal rights as Attorney General. But if you listened carefully, you should not have been persuaded. For example:

  • Although Sen. Sessions said he would “respect” Roe v. Wade despite his reiterated belief that this case was wrongly decided and illegitimate, he declined to say whether or not he would advise the Administration to argue that Roe should be overturned in the future.
  • Although he (finally) agreed that grabbing a woman by her genitals would constitute sexual assault, he refused to say whether he would prosecute President-Elect Trump or other executive officials for such an assault.
  • Although Sen. Sessions said that he would protect women’s access to abortion clinics, he first said that abortion clinics were entitled to the same protections against violence and threats as other businesses even though there is a specific law – which the Department of Justice is charged with enforcing – that protects against violence and harassment at clinics (like that perpetrated by individuals and groups like Operation Rescue, which has enthusiastically endorsed Sessions’ nomination).
  • Although Senator Sessions said that he would enforce laws protecting the LGBT community, when Sen. Leahy confronted him with Sessions’ own prior statement that he (Sessions) wasn’t sure women and LGBT persons experience the kind of discrimination prohibited by the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd Hate Crimes Act, all Sessions could say was, “that does not sound like something I said or intended to say” — and argue that what he really thought was that state courts were doing a sufficient job prosecuting crimes based on animus based on sexual orientation or gender.

We don’t know about you, but we are not convinced. Over the last three decades, Sen. Sessions has shown us how he would execute the duties of the nation’s chief law enforcement officer if confirmed. This record has told us all we need to know to #StopSessions.