Trump’s Attorney General ‘cynically exploiting’ murder of trans teen
Trump’s Attorney General has been accused of cynically exploiting a transphobic murder for good PR.
16-year-old Kedarie Johnson was shot to death last year in Iowa.
Jorge “Lumni” Sanders-Galvez was charged with first-degree murder over the shooting, but the state’s hate crime laws do not protect LGBT people, meaning the case could not be treated as a hate crime.
However, Trump’s Attorney General Jeff Sessions has intervened in the case – putting out a release declaring that he would pursue hate crime charges federally.
But Sessions, who has led the administration’s efforts to dismantle discrimination protections for LGBT people, has been accused of exploiting the teen’s murder for PR.
Pro-LGBT law firm Lambda Legal accused Sessions of a “cynical publicity stunt” by seeking positive coverage for simply following the precedent set by the Obama administration, at the same time he works to undermine civil rights protections for transgender workers.
Lambda Legal Director of Strategy Sharon McGowan said: “Of course it is important and right that the Department of Justice assist in bringing to justice the murderer of Kedarie/Kandicee Johnson, one of the far too many transgender people, and especially transgender people of color, targeted in the ongoing lethal epidemic of hate violence.
“But it is the height of cynicism for Attorney General Jeff Sessions to use this – frankly rare – instance of civil rights enforcement under his tenure to deflect from the current department’s sustained opposition to its historic mission.
“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.
“From revoking the guidance that assured trans kids they were welcome in school to asserting that transgender workers do not deserve protection against employment discrimination to defending Trump’s unconstitutional ban of transgender troops, Sessions has again and again defined transgender Americans as second-class citizens and has created an environment that encourages and enables violence against trans people.”
McGowan added: “He has similarly undermined the civil rights and safety of people of color, through such actions as his order to review all consent decrees designed to address systemic police violence.
“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.
“We hope that the Senators questioning Sessions at Wednesday’s oversight hearing of the Judiciary Committee are not distracted by this publicity stunt designed for their benefit and instead hold him accountable for the Department of Justice’s appalling failure to do its job under his direction.”
Sessions, a hardline opponent of LGBT rights, has worked over the past few weeks to undermine protections for LGBT people across the federal government, in a series of decisions reversing Obama administration guidance.
He issued a directive last week protecting “the right to perform or abstain from performing certain physical acts in accordance with one’s beliefs”, granting an unlimited license to discriminate against LGBT people based on religion.
Under his leadership, the Justice Department has rolled back civil rights protections for transgender people, and has also made an uninvited intervention into a discrimination case this year to argue against discrimination protections for gay employees.
Last week, it was found that the Attorney General has been working with an anti-LGBT hate group, Alliance Defending Freedom..
This listed anti-LGBT hate group has repeatedly lobbied to undermine LGBT rights across the US.
ADF chief Michael Farris confirmed that Sessions had repeatedly met with the group while “seeking suggestions regarding the areas of federal protection for religious liberty most in need of clarification or guidance.”
In turn, the ADF has poured glowing praise over Sessions of Trump over their actions in recent weeks.
Farris said: “I commend the president for taking another step to honor his campaign promise to make religious liberty his ‘first priority’ by directing the Department of Justice to issue this guidance, which simply directs the federal government to adhere to its legal and constitutional obligation to respect existing religious freedom protections.
The Southern Poverty Law Center classes the ADF as an anti-LGBT hate group due to its repeated deployment of homophobic propaganda and anti-LGBT work.
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The ADF has also allegedly pressured countries around the world to keep sodomy laws banning gay sex.
The ADF has framed much of its work in the US around a religious objection to same-sex marriage, but its lobbying work shows a much wider support for licensing anti-LGBT discrimination.
The ADF has also battled adoption rights, fought against LGBT people serving openly in the U.S. military, and involved itself in litigation that would continue to criminalise sex between consenting gay or lesbian adults around the world.
The group also offers free legal support for anyone who has been fired for being homophobic.
The ADF is currently behind a Supreme Court case seeking to create a Constitutional license to undermine discrimination protections for LGBT people.