Sessions Gets Slapped Hard On His History With VAWA and Hate Crime Legislation

Although Sen. Jeff Sessions is likely to be confirmed as our next Attorney General, he’s having to play an unusual game of defense considering his insane record on race, immigration, women’s health, and domestic violence and hate crime legislation. Questioned by Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) on his strident opposition of Roe v. Wade—who noted pointedly “I’m old enough to remember how it was before” the decision was passed, recalling women facing prison sentences for the crime of abortion—Sessions affirmed his belief that Roe v. Wade is “colossally erroneous” but that he would implement the law as Attorney General.


Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vermont) and Sen. Sessions faced off later on the topic of Sessions’ lack of support for the 2013 expanded Violence Against Women Act, which included expanded protections for LGBT victims and victims on tribal lands. In a friendly exchange with Sen. Orrin Hatch, Sessions portrayed himself as having been mischaracterized on VAWA, a different, less inclusive version of which he had supported.

“You were just asked about the Violence Against Women Act and your support, let’s deal with the facts. Let’s deal with what was actually voted on,” Leahy thundered. “Why did you vote against expanding protections for LGBT victims, students, immigrants, and tribal victims of domestic violence and sexual assault?”

“Mr. Chairman, I did indeed support the bill in 2000, and 200—”

“I’m talking about the bill that is the law today,” Leahy, who Sessions kept accidentally referring to as Chairman, interjected. “The law that was passed in 2013 by an overwhelming margin in the Senate and by an overwhelming margin in the Republican-controlled House. Why did you oppose it?”

“Mr. Chairman, a number of people opposed some of the provisions in that bill, not the entire bill—”

“I’m just asking about you.”

Sessions went on to claim that he was concerned about handing tribal courts jurisdiction to try defendants who were not tribe members, but later acknowledged that he hasn’t really paid attention to how the law has actually played out (pretty well!). “I have no...understanding of that, of—the results of it, so far, I’m interested, first time I’ve heard it commented on,” he said.


Leahy also asked about Session’s opposition to the Matthew Shepard and James Bird Hate Crimes Prevention Act, which extended protections to LGBT individuals, women, and individuals with disabilities. “You said at a hearing that you’re not sure women or people of different sexual orientations face that kind of discrimination. And then you said, ‘I just don’t see it.’ Do you still believe that women and LGBT individuals do not face the kind of hate crimes that the hate crime legislation was passed to prevent?”

“Having discussed that issue at some length, that does not sound like something I said or intended to say,” Sessions replied.


“Well, you did say it,” Leahy interjected.

Watch along here, it sure is a wild ride.

Ellie is a freelance writer and former senior writer at Jezebel. She is pursuing a master's degree in science journalism at Columbia University in the fall.



It scares me nonnative people can come to my reservation, and other reservation, assault me, and my family, and they may not get persecuted for it. The FBI can decide to not go after the person and my court can do nothing about it.