People Are Outraged Over Jeff Sessions Comments on Women and Discrimination

January 10th 2017

Lucy Tiven

Attorney general-designate Jeff Sessions' past statements about women came back to haunt him on during his confirmation hearing on Tuesday, with Senate Democrats scrutinizing his controversial record on hate crimes and gender discrimination.


Senate Judiciary Committee member Dianne Feinstein (D-Ca.) recalled a moment in 2009 when Sessions claimed women and LGBT individuals did not face sufficient discrimination to warrant protection from hate crime laws.

"Senator Sessions voted against the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd Hate Crimes Act, which among other things expanded the hate crimes law to cover sexual orientation and gender identity," Feinstein said. "Arguing against the hate crimes law in 2009, he said this, 'Today, I'm not sure women or people with different sexual orientations face that kind of discrimination. I just don't see it,' end quote."

Feinstein added: "Well, this senator, regretfully, sees it. "Hate crimes are happening. The Department of Justice must see it, must investigate it, and prosecute it appropriately. Those are votes that are deeply concerning. They are recent. They are important and they clearly show this senator's point of view."

In response to Feinstein's comments, Sessions said he would uphold existing laws that protect LGBT people.

Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) also delved into Sessions' opposition to the Violence Against Women Act.

Leahy further pressed Sessions on sexual assault, clearly referencing President-elect Donald Trump's famed 2005 comments about groping women without permission, which Sessions previously defended.

Roughly a minute after the exchange, Senate Democrats tweeted an October comment from Sessions reported by the Washington Post.

Activists from Code Pink and numerous other groups held protests at Tuesday's hearing. There was also a flood of criticism on social media regarding Sessions' past comments and his arguments in Tuesday's hearing.

Numerous civil rights groups and advocates for sexual assault survivors came out in fierce opposition to Sessions' nomination leading up to the hearing.

“Sen. Sessions has called the ACLU un-American and communist, assertions we flatly reject,” ACLU executive director Anthony Romero said in a statement. “His positions on LGBT rights, capital punishment, abortion rights, and presidential authority in times of war have been contested by the ACLU and other civil rights organizations.”

Know Your IX, the National Alliance to End Sexual Violence, and the National Task Force to End Sexual and Domestic Violence (NTF) issued statements against Sessions' appointment.

“The role of Attorney General requires a demonstrated commitment to providing equal protection under the law—particularly to people who face discrimination because of their race, religion, gender, gender identity, sexual orientation, disability or other identities,” the NTF wrote in a January 4 open letter. “Senator Sessions’ history leads us to question whether he will vigorously seek to ensure that all victims and survivors of gender-based violence, particularly vulnerable populations and those at the margins of society, have access to vitally needed services and legal protections.”