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Weekend Read: Sessions lends credibility of office to anti-LGBT group

This week, U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions lent the credibility of his office to a group committed to legalizing discrimination against the LGBT community.

In a major speech to Alliance Defending Freedom at the group's "Summit on Religious Liberty" in Dana Point, California, Sessions expressed sympathy for the group's contention that its religious freedom is jeopardized by laws and court rulings that protect the rights of LGBT people.

SPLC President Richard Cohen noted the irony that the attorney general "would suggest that the rights of ADF sympathizers are under attack when the ADF is doing everything in its power to deny the equal protection of the law to the LGBT community."

The ADF is, in fact, not about defending freedom, as its name says. Rather, it's a hate group that cloaks itself in religion as it spreads demonizing lies about the LGBT community in this country and seeks to criminalize it abroad. If the ADF had its way, gay people would be back in the closet for fear of going to jail.

The group supports the fraudulent practice of gay-to-straight conversion therapy. Its first president, Alan Sears, has argued that pedophilia and homosexuality are "intrinsically linked" (a dangerous falsehood long employed by anti-LGBT hate groups). In 2003, its lawyers argued against the eventual U.S. Supreme Court ruling that said sexual conduct between consenting adults is protected by the Constitution, a decision that struck down state laws criminalizing gay sex.

We're not surprised that Sessions would deliver closed-door remarks to the ADF. During his tenure in the U.S. Senate, he was a champion of anti-immigrant and anti-Muslim extremists. He also voted against the Matthew Shepard Act, which in 2009 expanded the federal hate crime statute to include crimes motivated by the victim's gender, sexual orientation, gender identity or disability.

This week's ADF appearance only heightens our concerns about Sessions' commitment to civil rights.

As SPLC Deputy Legal Director David Dinielli wrote, "How can we trust that the nation's top law enforcement officer will protect all Americans when he's willing to meet behind closed doors with a group that supports criminalizing homosexuality and marginalizing LGBT people around the world?"

Thanks as always for your support,

The Editors

P.S. Here are some other pieces we think are valuable this week:

How a teenage asylum-seeker from South Africa became a social justice advocate in Maine by Lynn Shattuck for 500 Pens

Americans oppose school segregation in theory — but not in practice by Perpetual Baffour for The Nation

My friend killed himself in an Alabama prison as told to Beth Schwartzapfel for The Marshall Project

SPLC's Weekend Reads are a weekly summary of the most important reporting and commentary from around the country on civil rights, economic and racial inequity, and hate and extremism. Sign up to receive Weekend Reads every Saturday morning.