Sharon McGowan is the Director of Strategy for Lambda Legal, the nation's oldest and largest national legal organization working to promote the civil rights of LGBT people. Prior to joining Lambda Legal, Sharon was the Principal Deputy Chief of the Appellate Section of the Civil Rights Division in the U.S. Department of Justice.
“May it please the Court. My name is Sharon McGowan, and I represent the United States.”
The first time I spoke those words standing at a courtroom podium as an attorney in the Civil Rights Division of the U.S. Department of Justice, I could feel the goosebumps under my sleeves.
When Donald Trump won the election, my reaction was one shared by many of my fellow career civil servants. Did that really happen, and what does it mean? Maybe all of his campaign rhetoric was just inflammatory words designed to grab headlines? But then, in one of his first acts as president-elect, Donald Trump selected Jeff Sessions as his nominee for attorney general. In that moment, I felt the ground rumbling beneath my feet, and knew that I would need to find more solid ground from which I could continue my work as a civil-rights advocate.
I knew it would be bad, but Sessions’ assault on the mission of the DOJ has been far worse than I could have expected.
Since his confirmation, the civil-rights community has been reeling. He rescinded federal guidance regarding trans students. Signaled that Black lives don’t matter when he sent out a memo directing DOJ to “immediately review” all existing and contemplated consent decrees with state and local law enforcement.
Under Sessions, DOJ has betrayed its obligation to defend voting rights, and has argued that LGBT workplace discrimination should be placed beyond the reach of federal law. Per Justice Department protocol, Acting Assistant Attorney General Tom Wheeler signed off on these documents for the Civil Rights Division. But you didn’t need forensic expertise to see Sessions’ fingerprints all over them.
Now, Sessions has selected someone to do more of his dirty work for him. In tapping Eric Dreiband as his choice to lead the Civil Rights Division, Sessions reveals the depth of his disdain for civil rights. Read more via the Daily Beast