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Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.) is at his confirmation hearing for attorney general, in which he is being asked questions about his career record, beliefs, and how he would ensure the position of attorney general would be used to keep all Americans safe and protected under the law. Sessions has a record of being racist, anti-immigrant, and anti-LGBTQ, and during the course of his hearing has said multiple alarming things about women. Here are all the anti-women things he has said (and denied saying) so far.
When asked about Roe v. Wade: “I believe it violated the Constitution and really attempted to set policy and not follow law,” though he said he would “respect it and follow it.”
When asked about sexual assault accusations against Donald Trump: In 2016, Sessions said the behavior Trump described in a 2005 Access Hollywood video (that he would grab a woman “by the pussy”) was not sexual assault, but later said it was. When asked about his statements by Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.), he said the actions described in the tape “would be.” When asked if he would federally prosecute a sitting president for sexual assault, he said, “The president is subject to certain lawful restrictions. They would be required to be obliged by the appropriate law enforcement official if appropriate, yes.”
On discrimination: Sessions previously argued, “I am not sure women or people with different sexual orientations face that kind of discrimination.” When presented with that quote, he today said, “That does not sound like something I said or intended to say,” despite the fact that he did say it.
Sessions on protecting women & LGBTQ: “I am not sure women or people with different sexual orientations face that kind of discrimination.”
— Senate Judiciary Dem (@JudiciaryDems) January 10, 2017
On the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA): Sessions did not vote to reauthorize the VAWA Act in 2013, which has typically garnered bipartisan support. The 2013 expansion included protections for LGBTQ victims and victims on tribal land. Sessions said there was a “concerning” provision regarding how the law would be applied on tribal land.
On his endorsement from the anti-choice group Operation Rescue: “Operation Rescue has advocated ‘execution’ of abortion providers,” said Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) at the hearing, and presented a poster from Operation Rescue that was a faux “Wanted” poster for Dr. George Tiller. Sessions “disavowed any activity like that,” though he did not condemn the group.
On “religious freedom”: “Religious freedom” is often used as a conservative dog whistle in legislation that will protect those who oppose LGBTQ rights on the grounds that their religion says so. For instance, the First Amendment Defense Act that was introduced in the 114th Congress. If passed, the law would prohibit the federal government from discriminating against people with a religious or “moral” conviction against anyone having sex outside of a heterosexual marriage, aka LGBTQ people and single people who enjoy having sex.
At his hearing, he seemed to promise to uphold religious freedom laws. “There are situations in which I believe we can reach accommodations that would allow the religious beliefs of persons to be honored in some fashion as opposed to just dictating everything under a single provision or policy,” he said. “We should recognize religious freedom. It will be a very high priority of mine.”
Jaya Saxena is a lifestyle writer and editor whose work focuses primarily on women's issues and web culture. Her writing has appeared in GQ, ELLE, the Toast, the New Yorker, Tthe Hairpin, BuzzFeed, Racked, Eater, Catapult, and others. She is the co-author of 'Dad Magazine,' the author of 'The Book Of Lost Recipes,' and the co-author of 'Basic Witches.'