Attorney General Jeff Sessions made an overture to some of his most fervid critics by inviting dozens of civil rights leaders to a hate-crimes summit and emphasizing his support for prosecuting anti-transgender and anti-Muslim crime, reports the Wall Street Journal. As a senator from Alabama, Sessions voted against a 2009 hate-crime law that expanded protections to people targeted for their gender identity or sexual orientation. This year, he has backed withdrawing federal guidance saying transgender students should be able to use public school bathrooms matching their gender identity.
Yesterday, Sessions set aside his usual focus on law and order to talk about protecting individual rights. He cited approvingly a case against a Mississippi man who was sentenced to 49 years in prison for murdering a transgender woman. Begun under the Obama administration, it was the first case prosecuted under the 2009 law involving gender identity. Sessions said he had met with staffers to prioritize the investigation and prosecution of other transgender murders. “We have, and will continue to, enforce hate-crime law aggressively and appropriately where transgender individuals are victims,” he said. “No person should have to fear being attacked because of who they are, what they believe, or how they worship.” The summit is part of the Trump administration’s balancing act on civil liberties and public safety, as it juggles demands from ideological camps within and outside the White House. After speaking to the civil-rights gathering, Sessions met with families of victims killed by illegal immigrants, as the administration continues to link illegal immigration with violent crime. Farhana Khera of Muslim Advocates, a civil-rights group invited to the summit, called Sessions’ record “deplorable.” See also TCR report on BJS study: “Most Hate Crimes Not Reported to Police.”