We were already dreading the appointments of creeps like Betsy DeVos, who wants to defund education and give the money to church groups; she also has a history of backing organizations that promote ex-gay torture camps. And the appointment of Jeff Sessions as Attorney General had us all groaning with misery — he has a long history of opposing equal rights for LGBTQ people.
But oh, wow, it turns out that Jeff is even worse than we previously imagined. Dig back into his rotten, sordid history, and you’ll find a truly depressing tale of the lengths to which he was willing to go to oppress queers.
The year was 1996, and Sessions was Attorney General of Alabama. In that role, he launched an all-out assault on an academic group that was trying to hold an LGBTQ conference at the University of Alabama.
Providing him with some cover was a state law that prohibited university funds from being spent on anything that might promote “actions prohibited by the sodomy and sexual misconduct laws.” As did many states at the time, Alabama had laws that allowed the state to lock people up for having consensual sex in their homes, and Sessions was all too eager to take advantage of that.
The conference itself was innocuous: It was called the Southeastern Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual College Conference, and they planned to hold meetings about coming out, religion, promoting sexual health, and preventing substance abuse. Sounds like pretty positive stuff, right?
Well, Sessions saw his opportunity to attack LGBTQs, and he was relentless in trying to shut them down. With the cooperation of the governor, noted civil rights enemy Fob James, Sessions at first requested that the conference be cancelled — and then he threatened legal action.
But then the courts threw him a curveball: A judge ruled that the law he was using to try to stop the conference was unconstitutional. According to US District Judge Myron Thompson, the law was “an open effort by the State Legislature to limit the sexuality discussion in institutions of higher learning to only one viewpoint: That of heterosexual people. This viewpoint limitation violates the First Amendment.”
Rather than backing down, Session stepped up his threats. “I intend to do everything I can to stop that conference,” he said, because of course you wouldn’t want queer people sharing knowledge about public health and safety — what could be worse?
“The State of Alabama will experience irreparable harm,” he insisted.
But of course, he was wrong. The conference went on as expected, and was a huge success thanks to the added publicity. Sessions was powerless to stop the students from meeting — though he never actually apologized for trying to stand in their way. And why should he? Twenty years later, he’s about to be rewarded for his cruelty with the highest legal position in the country.
It’s going to be a rough four years.
(Featured Image via Gage Skidmore/Flickr)