Your new Attorney General Jeff Sessions, once deemed too racist to become a federal judge, is also a longtime foe of LGBT people. That’s something he has in common with many of President-elect Donald Trump’s appointees, but the lengths to which he’s gone to make gay people miserable is really quite special. As CNN reports, while he was running for Senate back in 1996, Sessions also found time to engage in a lengthy court battle to try to keep an LGBT conference from happening at University of Alabama.
CNN’s Andrew Kaczynski dug up old press clippings of Sessions failed quest to keep the Southeastern Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual College Conference from meeting at University of Alabama, back when he was the state attorney general. Sessions attempted to use a 1992 state law that, as Kaczynski writes, “made it illegal for public universities to fund in any way a group that promotes ‘actions prohibited by the sodomy and sexual misconduct laws.’”
Fighting the conference-having-gays was important to Sessions’ political future; as the Associated Press wrote at the time, he decided to take the matter to court after initially refusing to touch the issue: “Sessions, considering a bid for U.S. Senate, reversed himself after other GOP Senate hopefuls criticized his reluctance to fight the meeting.”
Kaczynski writes that Sessions first contacted U of Alabama’s president demanding that the conference be cancelled. According to a Birmingham News account from the time, Sessions said that while he was uncomfortable with the conference, he would graciously not attempt to put anybody in jail about it, should it continue:
Sessions said that while he is concerned about the conference, the law does not provide criminal penalties for offenders. There’s no ability to put anyone in jail or that kind of thing, Sessions said.
Still, he said, the universities are subject to the laws of the state. They are required to follow the mandates of the Legislature.”
He said the university could have been more aggressive in halting the conference before it was scheduled. “In my opinion, they have been bending too far to political correctness,” Sessions said.
When the university didn’t cancel the conference of their own volition, Sessions went to court. Hilariously, that decision ultimately resulted in that law being voided by a federal judge, because it is plainly—almost laughably—discriminatory and unconstitutional.
Kazcynski writes that Session initially said he would appeal the ruling, and even asked to “monitor” the conference for misuse of taxpayer funding:
Sessions vowed to appeal, and told reporters he would even seek an injunction to stop the conference.
“I intend to do everything I can to stop that conference,” Sessions said, according to the Huntsville Times. “The Legislature gave serious thought to trying to craft a statute that passed muster,’’ Sessions added. “And I believe that my responsibility is to defend the laws of the Legislature.’’
That didn’t go anywhere. On Valentine’s Day 1996, the Associated Press wrote, the lawsuit was declared dead and the conference free to go on:
Attorney General Jeff Sessions, who had planned to get the law reinstated to block the event, said he didn’t know what to do next. One major opponent of the conference, GOP state Sen. Bill Armistead, said the battle was dead.
The two-day Lesbian, Gay and Bisexual College Conference of the Southeastern United States is to begin Friday with the theme: “Voices of Diversity: Living Out in the South.”
Sessions has not, in the 20 subsequent years, gotten any less hateful: He denounced the Supreme Court ruling legalizing same-sex marriage, accusing the justices of nothing less than destabilizing Western civilization.
“The civilization we flourish in today did not spring out of nothing,” he wrote. “It was carved out of the wilderness by families and communities knitted together by their faith and traditions, and set upon a foundation stretching back thousands of years.” He’s also a staunch supporter of the First Amendment Defense Act, which is, in essence, a blanket license to discriminate against gay Americans under the pretext of religion.
Sessions is, in other words, part of a growing pattern of Trump appointing anti-LGBT people to important positions. Trump may have promised that Caitlyn Jenner can use the bathroom of her choosing in Trump Tower, but he truly doesn’t give a shit about what his employees will do to anyone else.