Minnesota Senator Al Franken was among
the handful of Democrats who grilled Attorney General Jeff Sessions
on his record on LGBT rights.
The senators questioned Sessions during
a 5-hour Senate Judiciary committee hearing on Capitol Hill on
Wednesday. They repeatedly pressed Sessions on whether the
Department of Justice under his leadership was encouraging
discrimination. Sessions denied the accusation.
The DOJ has said that it does not
believe that the Civil Rights Act protects on the basis of sexual
orientation and gender identity, a departure from the Obama
Sessions responded that he issued the
orders to “follow the law” as he had “promised to do.”
Senator Dick Durbin of Illinois also
questioned Sessions, asking whether the agency's recent guidance on
religious liberty would allow federal employees and contractors to
discriminate against the LGBT community.
“Under the guidance you released to
all executive departments on religious liberty, let me ask you this
question: Could a Social Security Administration employee refuse to
accept or process spousal or survivor benefits paperwork for a
surviving same-sex spouse?” Durbin asked.
After a 4-second pause, Sessions said
that he did not have an answer. “That is something I have never
thought would arise, but I would have to give you a written answer to
that, if you don't mind,” he responded.
Would the guidance permit a federal
contractor to “refuse to provide services to LGBTQ people,
including emergencies, without risk of losing federal contracts?”
“I'm not sure that is covered by it,
but I will look,” Sessions said.
The Justice Department has also
injected itself into a case before the Supreme Court, siding with a
Colorado baker who refused to serve a gay couple.
admin files Supreme Court brief in support of baker who refused to
serve gay couple.)
“There's an argument to be made that
no Trump administration official has done more to hurt LGBT people
than you,” Franken told Sessions.