The Senate Judiciary Committee tomorrow will begin to hear testimony on the nomination of Jeff Sessions for Attorney General—and feminist and civil rights leaders are pushing back on his confirmation.
Sessions, who is currently a U.S. Senator representing Alabama, has an explicitly sexist and racist record. He voted against the 2013 re-authorization of the Violence Against Women Act, the Military Justice Improvement Act, multiple immigration reform bills and a resolution in support of Roe v. Wade and voted in favor of an unconstitutional 20-week ban on abortion, defunding Planned Parenthood, protections against anti-abortion violence, the repeal of the Affordable Care Act, abortion care access for women in the armed forced, abortion access for low-income women, federal funding for so-called Crisis Pregnancy Centers and eliminating family planning under Title X. Like all of Trump’s other cabinet nominees, he is also virulently anti-LGBT.
In 1986, Congress determined that Sessions was too racist to serve as a federal judge after a confirmation hearing in which he referred to a black attorney as “boy,” called the Voting Rights Act “intrusive legislation” and described the NAACP and ACLU as “un-American” while affirming the KKK as “okay.” In the wake of released Access Hollywood tapes from 2005 in which President-Elect Donald Trump described grabbing women “by the p*ssy,” Sessions remarked that calling such behavior sexual assault was “a stretch.” During the 2016 election, Sessions was one of the first Trump surrogates to vocalize his support for a proposed ban by the President-Elect on Muslims entering the U.S.
“Jeff Sessions has opposed pay equity for women, opposed re-authorization of the Violence Against Women Act, opposed civil rights enforcement, supported voter suppression and made racist statements,” Gaylynn Burroughs, policy director for the Feminist Majority (FM), wrote to supporters in an email. “His abysmal track record on women’s and civil rights raises serious concerns. He should not be allowed to skate by with an incomplete and inadequate questionnaire.”
FM is asking activists to call their Senators and urge them to delay Sessions’ hearing until he submits all of the information pertinent to his position. Sessions is one of many Trump cabinet appointees who has not submitted a complete questionnaire about their record. Sessions also hasn’t gone through an exhaustive ethics review—something Republicans demanded of President Obama’s cabinet nominees but are now flippantly moving forward without asking of Trump’s.
Other feminist groups are also pushing back on Sessions’ nomination. Today, survivors and their allies from UltraViolet delivered a giant poster to Sessions’ Capitol Hill office containing the Justice Department’s definition of sexual assault in a symbolic move to demand that he either address his previous failures to protect survivors of sexual assault or withdraw his name from consideration for the Attorney General post. UltraViolet has also commissioned a mobile billboard that will circle Capitol Hill emblazoned with the phrase “survivors of sexual assault can’t trust Jeff Sessions” and launched a petition calling on the Senate Judiciary Committee to reject his nomination.
Civil rights group have also been mobilizing against Sessions. As many as 20 NAACP leaders last week held a sit-in at Sessions’ Mobile office calling for the Senator to withdraw from the selection process. Several protestors were arrested at the scene, including president Cornel Williams Brooks. Color of Change, another civil rights organization, asked people from across the country to submit questions to be asked during Sessions’ hearing.
“We’re calling on citizens of this country to not accept as fait accompli the nomination of attorney general,” Brooks told USA Today after the NAACP sit-in. “It’s not a political coronation, it’s a democratic confirmation. We’re calling on people to tweet, email, show up at the Senator’s office and voice their opinions wisely, thoughtfully.”
You can call your Senators at 877-959-6082.
Carmen Rios is the Digital Editor at Ms., Managing Editor of Argot Magazine, Feminism Editor at Autostraddle and a Contributing Writer at Everyday Feminism. Her work has also appeared at BuzzFeed, MEL, Mic, BITCH, and Feministing. She stays very zen in L.A. traffic. You can find her on Twitter, Instagram and Tumblr.