Jeff Sessions on Civil Rights
Republican Jr Senator (AL)
1986: Lost appointment for racially insensitive comments
After law school, Sessions joined the U.S. Army Reserve (1973--86), rising to the rank of captain. He practiced law in Russellville and then Mobile before becoming an assistant U.S. attorney for the Southern District of Alabama (1975--77). In 1981 Pres.
Ronald Reagan appointed him U.S. attorney for the same region, and Sessions served in that post until 1993. He was nominated for a seat on the U.S. District Court in 1986, but the Senate Judiciary Committee did not advance the nomination for a vote
after it was claimed that he had made racially insensitive comments, among other allegations. In 1994 Sessions was elected attorney general of the state of Alabama, and he took office the following year. In 1996 he won a race for a seat in the
U.S. Senate. He entered the Senate in 1997, marking the first time since Reconstruction that two Republican senators from Alabama had served concurrently.
Source: Britannica Encyclopedia for Trump Cabinet biographies
, Dec 31, 2018
1986: Denied confirmation as federal judge
Expect Democrats to bring up Sessions's history of allegedly racist comments as a federal prosecutor in Alabama--comments which saw him denied confirmation as a federal judge in the 1980s.
The nomination sent news outlets scrambling to their archives to dig out transcripts of those fateful Senate judiciary committee hearings from 1986.
Senators heard a Justice Department official testify that Sessions, then US Attorney for the Southern district of Alabama, had suggested that a prominent white civil rights lawyer might justly be called "a disgrace to his race" for representing
black clients. Under questioning Sessions said that he did not recall making that comment, and could not understand why he would have made it, but did not deny his colleague's account.
Source: The Economist on 2017 Trump transition/confirmation hearings
, Nov 18, 2016
1986: Called NAACP a "pinko" organization that hates whites
Sessions' nomination sent news outlets scrambling to their archives to dig out transcripts of those fateful Senate judiciary committee hearings from 1986.
Asked whether he had called the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, a civil rights group, a "pinko" organisation that hates white people,
Sessions told his Senate inquisitors: "I am loose with my tongue on occasion, and I may have said something similar to that." He did deny the account of a black federal prosecutor who testified that
Sessions called him "boy" and chided him to be careful how he spoke to "white folks". Twenty years later Sessions is in a position to avenge that humiliation.
Source: The Economist on 2017 Trump transition/confirmation hearings
, Nov 18, 2016
Banning the Pledge of Allegiance is unconstitutional
On the Pledge of Allegiance case, the 9th Circuit, which includes 40 percent of the people in the United States, ruled that the Pledge of Allegiance was unconstitutional. The Supreme Court sort of sidestepped the fundamental issue and sent that back to a
lower court [on issues of the plaintiff’s standing], where the case was won. They’ve concluded, and the 9th Circuit law remains in effect, so that 40 percent of the population of the United States really are not able, if you follow that opinion,
to render the Pledge of Allegiance. Yet, we have chaplains and “In God we trust” in the Senate chamber and those kind of issues.
I don’t believe that that is founded in the Constitution. I think the American people do not. And they are asking some real questions of us. That’s an overreach, in my opinion.
Source: Sam Alito Senate Confirmation Hearings
, Jan 11, 2006
Voted NO on reauthorizing the Violence Against Women Act.
Amends the Violence Against Women Act of 1994 (VAWA) to add or expand definitions of several terms used in such Act, including :
- "culturally specific services" to mean community-based services that offer culturally relevant and linguistically specific services and resources to culturally specific communities;
- "personally identifying information" with respect to a victim of domestic violence, dating violence, sexual assault, or stalking;
- "underserved populations" as populations that face barriers in accessing and using victim services because of geographic location, religion, sexual orientation or gender identity; and
- "youth" to mean a person who is 11 to 24 years old.
Opponent's Argument for voting No (The Week; Huffington Post, and The Atlantic):
House Republicans had objected to provisions in the Senate bill that extended VAWA's protections to lesbians, gays, immigrants, and Native Americans. For example, Rep. Bill Johnson (R-OH) voted against the VAWA bill because it was a "politically–motivated, constitutionally-dubious Senate version bent on dividing women into categories by race, transgender politics and sexual preference." The objections can be grouped in two broadly ideological areas--that the law is an unnecessary overreach by the federal government, and that it represents a "feminist" attack on family values. The act's grants have encouraged states to implement "mandatory-arrest" policies, under which police responding to domestic-violence calls are required to make an arrest. These policies were intended to combat the too-common situation in which a victim is intimidated into recanting an abuse accusation. Critics also say VAWA has been subject to waste, fraud, and abuse because of insufficient oversight.
Reference: Violence Against Women Reauthorization Act;
Bill S. 47
; vote number 13-SV019
on Feb 12, 2013
Voted YES on recommending Constitutional ban on flag desecration.
The Senate voted on a resolution which would recommend a Constitutional Amendment banning flag desecration (not a vote on the Amendment itself). The resolution states:
- the flag of the US is a unique symbol of national unity...
- the Bill of Rights should not be amended in a manner that could be interpreted to restrict freedom...
- abuse of the flag causes more than pain and distress... and may amount to fighting words...
- destruction of the flag of the US can be intended to incite a violent response rather than make a political statement and such conduct is outside the protections afforded by the first amendment to the Constitution.
Proponents of the Resolution say:
- Fifty State legislatures have called on us to pass this amendment. This amendment simply says that "Congress shall have power to prohibit the physical desecration of the flag of the United States."
- In other words, in passing this amendment, we would give to
Congress the power that the Supreme Court took away in 1989.
- 48 States had anti-desecration measures on the books before 1989. It was then that five unelected judges told those 48 sovereign entities that they were wrong.
Opponents of the Resolution say:
Reference: Flag Desecration Amendment;
; vote number 2006-189
on Jun 27, 2006
- I am deeply offended when people burn or otherwise abuse this precious national symbol.
- I also believe that the values and beliefs that the American flag represents are more important than the cloth from which this symbol was created.
- Prominent among these beliefs are the right to voice views that are unpopular, and the right to protest.
- I oppose this amendment not because I condone desecration of our flag, but because I celebrate the values our flag represents. Flag burning is despicable. However, the issue is whether we should amend our great charter document, the Constitution, to proscribe it.
- Is this a problem needing such strong medicine? Are we facing an epidemic of flag burnings?
Voted YES on constitutional ban of same-sex marriage.
Voting YES implies support for amending the constitution to ban same-sex marriage. This cloture motion to end debate requires a 3/5th majority. A constitutional amendment requires a 2/3rd majority. The proposed amendment is:
Marriage in the United States shall consist only of the union of a man and a woman. Neither this Constitution, nor the constitution of any State, shall be construed to require that marriage or the legal incidents thereof be conferred upon any union other than the union of a man and a woman.
Reference: Marriage Protection Amendment;
Bill S. J. Res. 1
; vote number 2006-163
on Jun 7, 2006
Voted NO on adding sexual orientation to definition of hate crimes.
Motion to Invoke Cloture on S. 625; Local Law Enforcement Enhancement Act of 2001. The bill would expand the definition of hate crimes to incorporate acts committed because of a victim's sex, sexual orientation or disability and permit the federal government to help states prosecute hate crimes even if no federally protected action was implicated. If the cloture motion is agreed to, debate will be limited and a vote will occur. If the cloture motion is rejected debate could continue indefinitely and instead the bill is usually set aside. Hence a Yes vote supports the expansion of the definition of hate crimes, and a No vote keeps the existing definition. Three-fifths of the Senate, or 60 members, is required to invoke cloture.
; vote number 2002-147
on Jun 11, 2002
Voted YES on loosening restrictions on cell phone wiretapping.
Motion to table (kill) the amendment that would provide that in order to conduct roving surveillance, the person implementing the order must ascertain that the target of the surveillance is present in the house or is using the phone that has been tapped.
; vote number 2001-300
on Oct 11, 2001
Voted NO on expanding hate crimes to include sexual orientation.
Vote on an amendment that would expand the definition of hate crimes to include gender, sexual orientation and disability. The previous definition included only racial, religious or ethnic bias.
; vote number 2000-136
on Jun 20, 2000
Voted NO on setting aside 10% of highway funds for minorities & women.
Vote to table, or kill, an amendment to repeal the Disadvantaged Business Enterprise [DBE] Program, which requires no less than 10% of highway construction projects funded by the federal government to be contracted to 'disadvantaged business enterprises'
; vote number 1998-23
on Mar 6, 1998
Voted YES on ending special funding for minority & women-owned business.
This legislation would have abolished a program that helps businesses owned by women or minorities compete for federally funded transportation.
Status: Cloture Motion Rejected Y)48; N)52
Reference: Motion to invoke cloture;
; vote number 1997-275
on Oct 23, 1997
Supports anti-flag desecration amendment.
Sessions co-sponsored a Constitutional Amendment:
Supports granting Congress power to prohibit the physical desecration of the U.S. flag. Proposes an amendment to the Constitution of the United States authorizing the Congress to prohibit the physical desecration of the flag of the United States.
Source: House Resolution Sponsorship 01-HJR36 on Mar 13, 2001
Rated 20% by the ACLU, indicating an anti-civil rights voting record.
Sessions scores 20% by the ACLU on civil rights issues
The mission of the ACLU is to preserve protections and guarantees America’s original civic values - the Constitution and the Bill of Rights:
We work also to extend rights to segments of our population that have traditionally been denied their rights, including Native Americans and other people of color; lesbians, gay men, bisexuals and transgendered people; women; mental-health patients; prisoners; people with disabilities; and the poor. If the rights of society’s most vulnerable members are denied, everybody’s rights are imperiled.
- Your First Amendment rights-freedom of speech, association and assembly. Freedom of the press, and freedom of religion supported by the strict separation of church and state.
- Your right to equal protection under the law - equal treatment regardless of race, sex, religion or national origin.
- Your right to due process - fair treatment by the government whenever the loss of your liberty or property is at stake.Your right to privacy - freedom from unwarranted government intrusion into your personal and private affairs.
Our ratings are based on the votes the organization considered most important; the numbers reflect the percentage of time the representative voted the organization's preferred position.
Source: ACLU website 02n-ACLU on Dec 31, 2002
Rated 0% by the HRC, indicating an anti-gay-rights stance.
Sessions scores 0% by the HRC on gay rights
OnTheIssues.org interprets the 2005-2006 HRC scores as follows:
About the HRC (from their website, www.hrc.org):
- 0% - 20%: opposes gay rights (approx. 207 members)
- 20% - 70%: mixed record on gay rights (approx. 84 members)
- 70%-100%: supports gay rights (approx. 177 members)
The Human Rights Campaign represents a grassroots force of more than 700,000 members and supporters nationwide. As the largest national gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender civil rights organization, HRC envisions an America where GLBT people are ensured of their basic equal rights, and can be open, honest and safe at home, at work and in the community.
Ever since its founding in 1980, HRC has led the way in promoting fairness for GLBT Americans. HRC is a bipartisan organization that works to advance equality based on sexual orientation and gender expression and identity.
Source: HRC website 06n-HRC on Dec 31, 2006
Rated 7% by the NAACP, indicating an anti-affirmative-action stance.
Sessions scores 7% by the NAACP on affirmative action
OnTheIssues.org interprets the 2005-2006 NAACP scores as follows:
About the NAACP (from their website, www.naacp.org):
- 0% - 33%: anti-affirmative-action stance (approx. 177 members)
- 34% - 84%: mixed record on affirmative-action (approx. 96 members)
- 85%-100%: pro-affirmative-action stance (approx. 190 members)
The National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) has worked over the years to support and promote our country's civil rights agenda. Since its founding in 1909, the NAACP has worked tirelessly to end racial discrimination while also ensuring the political, social, and economic equality of all people. The Association will continue this mission through its policy initiatives and advocacy programs at the local, state, and national levels.
From the ballot box to the classroom, the dedicated workers, organizers, and leaders who forged this great organization and maintain its status as a champion of social justice, fought long and hard to ensure that the voices of African Americans would be heard. For nearly one hundred years, it has been the talent and tenacity of NAACP members that has saved lives and changed many negative aspects of American society.
Source: NAACP website 06n-NAACP on Dec 31, 2006
State definition of marriage supersedes federal gay marriage.
Sessions co-sponsored State Marriage Defense Act
Congressional summary::Prohibits any interpretation of US administrative agencies, as applied with respect to individuals domiciled in a state of the United States:
- the term "marriage" from including any relationship that the state does not recognize as a marriage; and
- the term "spouse" from including an individual who is a party to a relationship that is not recognized as a marriage by that state.
Opponent's argument against (CNN.com Feb. 8 report on Attorney General Eric Holder's action which prompted this bill): In a major milestone for gay rights, the US government expanded recognition of same-sex marriages in federal legal matters, including bankruptcies, prison visits and survivor benefits. "It is the Justice Department's policy to recognize lawful same-sex marriages as broadly as possible, to ensure equal treatment for all members of society regardless of sexual orientation," Attorney General Eric Holder said.
The federal expansion includes 34 states where same-sex marriage isn't legal. For example, a same-sex couple legally married in Massachusetts can now have a federal bankruptcy proceeding recognized in Alabama, even though it doesn't allow same-sex marriages.
Proponent's argument in favor (Washington Post Feb. 13 reporting on Sen. Ted Cruz): If passed, the bill would cede marriage definition to states for federal purposes, which would effectively reverse the gains same-sex couples made after the Defense of Marriage Act was overturned by the Supreme Court in June 2013. Cruz said, "I support traditional marriage. The federal government has tried to re-define marriage, and to undermine the constitutional authority of each state to define marriage consistent with the values of its citizens. The Obama Administration should not be trying to force gay marriage on all 50 states."
Source: H.R.3829 & S. 2024 14-S2024 on Feb 12, 2014
Page last updated: Mar 10, 2019