Vanita Gupta, chief of the Justice Department’s Civil Rights division, stepped down from her post last week as President-elect Donald Trump prepared to launch his administration, says the Civil Rights Law will change dramatically under President Donald Trump.
The Indian American lawyer was appointed to the position in 2014. In the Obama administration, the Justice Department often took on an advocacy role, championing the rights of minorities, especially the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community. In a landmark move last year, Gupta sent a letter to every public school in the country, telling them to allow transgender students to use bathrooms that conformed with their gender identity.
As per a NY Times report, in the final weeks of the Obama administration, the Justice Department won the first hate-crime case involving a transgender victim and sued two cities for blocking mosques from opening. Prosecutors settled lending-discrimination charges with two banks, then sued a third. They filed legal briefs on behalf of New York teenagers being held in solitary confinement, and accused Louisiana of forcing mentally ill patients into nursing homes.
And then, with days remaining, prosecutors announced a deal to overhaul Baltimore’s Police Department and accused Chicago of unconstitutional police abuses. During Obama’s two terms in office, the DOJ’s Civil Rights division has opened 25 civil pattern-or-practice investigations into local law enforcement agencies to investigate allegations of misconduct, including excessive force; unlawful stops, searches and arrests; and discriminatory policing, among others, reported the Washington Post.
Much of the division’s work requires “culture change in institutions or requires change, sustained change over a term of years,” Gupta said, in an interview with the Washington Post. The attorney said she had anxieties about whether the Trump administration would continue the work, especially under the leadership of Alabama Sen. Jeff Sessions, Trump’s nominee to head up the Justice Department.
“The project of civil rights has always demanded creativity,” Gupta said in an interview with the New York Times. “It requires being bold. Often that means going against the grain of currentday popular thinking. Or it requires going to the more expansive reading of the law to ensure we are actually ensuring equal protection for everyone.” “(You) bend the arc of history itself — not merely by serving your clients, but by harnessing the law as a force for positive change,” she said.