Attorney General Jeff Sessions has developed a reputation over the years for being an enemy of LGBTQ rights. Just this month, he has ruled that federal civil rights protections do not extend to transgender people in the workplace. The next day, Sessions issued a memo stating that employers should be allowed to hire only those employees who subscribe to their religious beliefs. Many in the LGBTQ community see both reversals as permission for employers to legally discriminate against their communities.
Freedom of religion is paramount to our nation’s success, but does not give people the right to discriminate.— Sarah Kate Ellis (@sarahkateellis) October 6, 2017
I would never use my faith to justify harm and discrimination to others like this administration wants to allow people to do to me.— Sarah Kate Ellis (@sarahkateellis) October 6, 2017
With these previous stances in mind, it came as a surprise to... well, pretty much everybody, to hear that Sessions “personally initiated” the plan to send a hate-crimes expert to aid in the prosecution of a gender-fluid Iowa teen's murderer.
Sessions will be sending Justice Department attorney Christopher Perras, a hate crimes expert, to prosecute Jorge “Lumni” Sanders-Galvez, a 22-year-old charged with the murder of 16-year-old Kedarie Johnson. Des Moines County Attorney Amy Beavers told the Des Moines Register that authorities are treating the murder as a potential hate crime, since Johnson identified as both male and female (gender fluid).
Attorney General Jeff Sessions sends experienced hate crimes lawyer to help prosecute a man charged with murdering a trans high-schooler …/1— Joé McKen (@joemcken) October 15, 2017
Sessions' actions may not be completely out of the blue, however. In June, at a Justice Department hate crimes meeting, Sessions lamented the “spate of murders around the country of transgender individuals.” Claiming to have directed his Civil Rights Division to "identify ways the department can support state and local law enforcement authorities investigating these incidents," Sessions stated:
We have and will continue to enforce hate crime laws aggressively and appropriately where transgendered individuals are victims.
Many LGBTQ advocates see a dark side to the Attorney General's actions, however. Sharon McGowan, director of strategy for Lambda Legal, a non-profit organization dedicated to equal rights for LGBTQ individuals, called the appointment of a hate crimes expert a “publicity stunt,"
No one in the Trump administration has done more to harm LGBT people, and especially transgender people, than Jeff Sessions ― and in a government chock full of anti-LGBT appointees, that is saying a lot. For Sessions now to seek credit for helping prosecute hate crimes against transgender people is akin to him handing out gasoline and matches and then looking for a pat on the back when he prosecutes someone for committing arson.