The Autistic Self Advocacy Network condemns the proposed nomination of Senator Jefferson Sessions III, a staunch opponent of civil liberties, as United States Attorney General.
The Attorney General oversees the Department of Justice. This agency’s work could not be more vital to the disability community. The Department of Justice is responsible for enforcing countless laws protecting civil rights and voting rights. It protects the rights of people interacting with police and helps track and prosecute hate crimes. For the past several years, the Department of Justice has actively enforced the Americans with Disabilities Act and the Olmstead decision, resulting in increased community inclusion for disabled people across the country. But Senator Sessions has suggested increasing the segregation of disabled students in public schools, calling the inclusion of students with significant disabilities “the single most irritating problem for teachers throughout America today.” We have grave concerns that under Sessions, the Department of Justice would not protect the rights of disabled people and other marginalized populations.
In addition to his statements opposing community inclusion for people with disabilities, Sessions voted against the Shepard-Byrd act, which extended Federal hate crimes protections to women, LGBT people, and people with disabilities–hate crimes protections that the Department of Justice now enforces. Sessions has also long opposed the voting rights protections that the Department of Justice is charged with protecting, which include protections for voters with disabilities. He has even denied that race-motivated voter suppression exists.
In 1986, Sessions failed to be confirmed to the U.S. District Court due to testimony that he had made frequent racist remarks to an African-American co-worker, had called civil rights groups “un-American,” and generally expressed contempt for the entire field of civil rights law. As a Senator, he has consistently opposed reproductive rights; voted against expanding healthcare access through Medicaid, SCHIP, and the ACA; and supported policies hostile to both documented and undocumented immigrants. Sessions opposed not only Obergefell v. Hodges, which legalized same-gender marriage in all states, but also Lawrence v. Texas, which ruled that laws criminalizing sexuality between same-sex partners are unconstitutional. During the recent election, he claimed that non-consensually grabbing a woman’s genitals is not sexual assault. Sessions has devoted his career in public service to upholding inequality. This is incompatible with the responsibilities of the Attorney General.
During the confirmation process, ASAN calls on Senators of both parties, as well as members of the public, to undertake a thorough investigation into Sessions’ long record of bigotry, ableism, racism and disdain for civil rights and to reject his nomination to the position of Attorney General.