Search form

Group 4 Created with Sketch.
Back to Light Inside

Kristen Clarke

Assistant Attorney General for Civil Rights

Kristen Clarke is the Assistant Attorney General for Civil Rights in the Justice Department, where she has previous experience working as a trial attorney for its Civil Rights division. Clarke has worked as president and executive director of the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights; throughout her career, Clarke has demonstrated strong support for reproductive, LGBTQIA+ and human rights.

Kristen Clarke Was Confirmed As Assistant Attorney General For Civil Rights In May 2021

Kristen Clarke Was Confirmed As Assistant Attorney General For Civil Rights On May 25, 2021. “The Senate voted 51-48 on Tuesday to confirm longtime civil rights attorney Kristen Clarke to lead the Justice Department's Civil Rights Division.” [Axios, 5/25/21]

Kristen Clarke Was Reported To Be Biden’s Nominee For Assistant Attorney General For Civil Rights On January 6, 2021

AP News Reported Kristen Clarke Was Selected As President-Elect Biden’s Nominee For Assistant Attorney General For Civil Rights. “Biden is expected to announce Garland’s appointment on Thursday, along with other senior leaders of the department, including former homeland security adviser Lisa Monaco as deputy attorney general and former Justice Department civil rights chief Vanita Gupta as associate attorney general, the No. 3 official. He will also name an assistant attorney general for civil rights, Kristen Clarke, the president of Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, an advocacy group.” [AP News, 1/6/21]

Clarke’s Biography Is Listed On The Biden-Harris Transition Website. “JUSTICE NOMINEES AND APPOINTEES … Kristen Clarke … Assistant Attorney General for the Civil Rights Division” [Biden-Harris Transition, 1/7/21]

Under Clarke’s Leadership, DOJ Announced An Investigation Into Inhumane Conditions In Georgia’s Prisons

On September 14,2021 Clarke Announced The DOJ’s Investigation Into Abusive, Inhumane Conditions In Georgia’s Prisons. “We are here today to announce that the U.S. Department of Justice is launching a state-wide civil investigation into prisons of Georgia. This investigation will be comprehensive, but will focus on harm to prisoners resulting from prisoner-on-prisoner violence. We are also investigating sexual abuse of gay, lesbian and transgender prisoners by prisoners and staff.We are conducting this investigation pursuant to the Civil Rights of Institutionalized Persons Act. This federal law authorizes the Department of Justice to investigate state prisons to determine whether incarcerated people are subjected to a pattern or practice of constitutional violations. Our investigations have been successful at identifying not only whether systemic constitutional violations are occurring, but also the root causes of any such violations – so that those causes can be fixed and the violations can stop. Our country was founded on high ideals. Under the Eighth Amendment of our Constitution, those who have been convicted of crimes and sentenced to serve time in prison must never be subjected to “cruel and unusual punishments.” [Department of Justice, 9/14/21]

The Investigtion Was Sparked By “Alarming Reports” Of Assaulted Prisoners, Particularly Imprisoned LGBTQIA+ People. “Assistant Attorney General Kristen Clarke, chief of Justice's Civil Rights Division, the said [sic] the inquiry was sparked by alarming reports of prisoner-on-prisoner attacks, along with prisoner and staff assaults on gay, lesbian and transgender inmates. The department's action expands on an existing federal inquiry started in 2016 that had been focused the sexual abuse of LGBT prisoners.Earlier this month, the Georgia detention system was named in a federal civil rights lawsuit, alleging "abysmal" conditions inside solitary confinement wings that have "deteriorated past the point of constitutional crisis." [USA Today, 9/14/21]

The Investigation Is A Continuation Of DOJ’s Civil Rights Division’s 2016 Investigation Of Georgia Prisons.“Assistant Attorney General Clarke says the Justice Department began an investigation into Georgia prisons in 2016. She couldn't comment on its status, and there have been no public updates on the Civil Rights Division's work until now. Georgia's Department of Corrections says it's cooperated with the Justice Department and denies it's violated prison or civil rights.” [NPR, 9/14/21]

Clarke Stated That Confronting Unconsitutial And Inhumane Prison Conditions Is A Top Priority For DOJ’s Civil Rights Division. “We also will continue the work of our existing investigation into whether the State of Georgia adequately protects lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex, or LGBTI, prisoners from sexual abuse by other prisoners and by staff. I am pleased to announce that a team of career civil attorneys from the Special Litigation Section of the Civil Rights Division will be joined by career lawyers in all three United States Attorney’s Offices in Georgia in conducting the investigation. The investigation will be independent, thorough, and fair. We have not made, and will not make, any conclusions until our investigation is complete.  If our investigation reveals reasonable cause to believe there is a systemic constitutional violation, we will provide written notice to the State of Georgia of the violation or violations, along with the supporting facts and the minimal remedial measures. We will seek to work cooperatively with the state to establish solutions to any problems our investigation uncovers … Confronting unconstitutional, unlawful and inhumane prison conditions is a top priority for the Civil Rights Division of the Justice Department. As Nelson Mandela said: “No one truly knows a nation until one has been inside its jails. A nation should not be judged by how it treats its highest citizens, but its lowest ones.” [Department of Justice, 9/14/21]

The Southern Center For Human Rights Applauded The Announcement. “Sara Totonchi, the Southern Center's executive director, said the group is "deeply grateful" for the Justice action."This is a significant step in our ongoing struggle for accountability for the lives that have been lost and for the people who continue to suffer behind the walls," Totonchi said.” [USA Today, 9/14/21]

Clarke Reiterated Her Support Of Reproductive And LGBTQIA+ Rights In Her Senate Judiciary Confirmation Hearing And Her Response To Written Questions For The Record

In Written Responses For The Record, Clarke Cited A Supreme Court Precedent And Pledged To Uphold Federal Abortion Law

When Asked About Various Reproductive Rights Issues, Clarke Cited A Supreme Court Precedent. “67. For purposes of federal law, when does life begin? RESPONSE: In Roe v. Wade, 410 U.S. 113 (1973), the Supreme Court stated that the court ‘need not resolve’ the question of when life begins. Id. at 159 … 68. Does the definition of when human life begins for purposes of federal law differ from the scientific definition of when human life begins? RESPONSE: In Roe v. Wade, 410 U.S. 113 (1973), the Supreme Court stated that the court ‘need not resolve’ the question of when life begins. Id. at 159 … 69. At what point in human development does the United States have a compelling interest in protecting a human life? RESPONSE: In Planned Parenthood v. Casey, the Supreme Court held that states may regulate abortion prior to viability based on the state’s interest in maternal health and potential life, provided those regulations did not impose and do not have ‘the purpose or effect of placing a substantial obstacle in the path of a woman seeking an abortion of a nonviable fetus.’ 505 U.S. 833, 877 (1992).” [Senate Judiciary Committee, accessed 4/29/21]

Clarke Did Not Give In To Anti-Choice Talking Points And Pledged To Uphold Federal Abortion Law And Supreme Court Precedent. “70. Do you support laws penalizing fetal homicide? RESPONSE: If I am confirmed as Assistant Attorney General for the Civil Rights Division, my mandate will be to enforce the law, as I have done throughout my career. 71. Do you support the Unborn Victims of Violence Act of 2004, which provides that a person guilty of killing a child in utero may be punished to the same extent as if they had killed the child’s mother, and that a person who intentionally kills a child in utero may be charged as a homicide (i.e., murder or manslaughter)? RESPONSE: If confirmed as Assistant Attorney General for the Civil Rights Division, my duty will be to enforce the Constitution and other federal laws consistent with Supreme Court precedent. 72. Given that ‘homicide’ requires the killing of an innocent human being, do you agree that in order to punish someone for violating this statute, the child in utero would have to be a human being? RESPONSE: If confirmed as Assistant Attorney General for the Civil Rights Division, my duty will be to enforce the Constitution and other federal laws consistent with Supreme Court precedent. 73. Are there any circumstances which justify the killing of an innocent human being? RESPONSE: I am not aware of what circumstances you may be referring in your question. If confirmed as Assistant Attorney General for the Civil Rights Division, my duty will be to enforce the Constitution and other federal laws consistent with Supreme Court precedent. 74. Do you support the Born Alive Infants Protection Act? RESPONSE: If confirmed as Assistant Attorney General for the Civil Rights Division, my duty will be to enforce the Constitution and other federal laws consistent with Supreme Court precedent.” [Senate Judiciary Committee, accessed 4/29/21]

In Written Responses For The Record, Clarke Pledged To Uphold LGBTQ Rights

Clarke Pledged To Uphold Biden’s Executive Order On Preventing And Combating LGBTQ Discrimination. “79. Do you believe that a women’s shelter that denies entry to a person with a male body who claims to identify as a woman—knowing nothing else—should be denied federal funding? RESPONSE: I am not aware of all the relevant facts concerning this hypothetical, and therefore am not in a position to comment. As the President’s Executive Order on Preventing and Combating Discrimination on the Basis of Gender Identity or Sexual Orientation provides, every person should be treated with respect and dignity and should be able to live without fear, no matter who they are or whom they love. All persons should receive equal treatment under the law, no matter their gender identity or sexual orientation. Transgender people can be discriminated against because their gender identity does not match the sex they were assigned at birth. If confirmed, I will enforce federal law and, as Attorney General Garland has explained, advance the Administration’s policy program consistent with the Department’s objective assessment of the law.” [Senate Judiciary Committee, accessed 4/29/21]

Clarke Voiced Her Respect For The Personal Medical Decisions Of Transgender People. “83. Do you believe parents should be involved in the decision of whether to administer hormone blockers or other gender reassignment therapies to their minor child? RESPONSE: A person’s gender identity is a personal matter. Each situation is unique, whether involving a minor or an adult, and any decision to receive medical treatment is similarly personal and particular to the individual. If I am confirmed, it will not be my mandate to proscribe rules for individual families and persons should address these very personal situations. I will enforce all federal laws within my purview, and work to ensure that every person is treated with respect and dignity and can live without fear, no matter who they are or who they love.” [Senate Judiciary Committee, accessed 4/29/21]

Clarke Stated That She Disagreed With The Supreme Court’s Masterpiece Cakeshop Decision Because The Court “Missed An Opportunity To Discourage [Anti-LGBTQIA+] Discrimination.” “26. Why did you tweet that Masterpiece Cakeshop Supreme Court decision ‘devastating’ and ‘gravely unfortunate’? Tweet is located at RESPONSE: I stated at the time that I thought the Supreme Court decision in Masterpiece Cakeshop v. Colorado Civil Rights Commission, 138 S. Ct. 1719 (2018), missed an opportunity to discourage discrimination against people on the basis of their LGBT status. The Court’s decision recognized the authority of states to ‘protect the rights and dignity of gay persons who are, or wish to be, married but who face discrimination when they seek goods or services,’ and also that all people have the right to the free exercise of religion. Id. at 1723. If confirmed, I will work with other Department leaders and with career staff to follow and enforce the law and Supreme Court precedents like Masterpiece Cakeshop.” [Senate Judiciary Committee, accessed 4/29/21]

During Her Confirmation Hearing, Clarke Vowed To Fight Back Against Hate And Extremism Targeting Minority Groups, Including LGBTQIA+ People

Clarke Vowed To Fight Back Against The Rise In Hate And Extremism Targeting Minority Groups, Including LGBTQIA+ People. “I am gravely concerned about the rise in hate and extremism that we’re seeing in this country, that black people are experiencing, LGBTQ people, the AAPI community, and it is not lost on me that Jewish people continue to suffer from antisemitism. And this is an ill that I hope to fight back against if confirmed to the role.” [Senate Judiciary Committee, 4/14/21]

Clarke Has An Excellent Record On Reproductive, LGBTQIA+ And Human Rights

Clarke Has An Excellent Record On Reproductive Rights

Clarke Testified Against Judge Amy Coney Barrett’s Stances On Abortion And Roe V. Wade. “By every indication, Judge Barrett would likely look to restrict reproductive rights and ultimately dismantle Roe v. Wade. Her public statements on the issue, judicial decisions, strict originalist approach to constitutional analysis, and negative view of stare decisis all point towards the conclusion that she would not recognize Roe’s federal fundamental right to privacy if appointed to the High Court. We note that many of the cases that seek to undermine Roe v. Wade are cases in which we see a disproportionate impact on low-income women of color.” [Senate Judiciary Committee, 10/15/20]

Clarke Praised The Supreme Court’s Decision To Strike Down Abortion Clinic Restrictions That Disproportionately Harmed Low-Income Black Women.

[Kristen Clarke Twitter, 6/29/20]

Clarke Wrote An Op-Ed Emphasizing Abortion Access As A Racial Justice Issue. “The relentless campaign to restrict access to abortion in Louisiana puts the constitutional and civil rights of thousands of Black women on the line, making clear that abortion is a racial justice issue. A Louisiana law, known as Act 620, unnecessarily requires abortion providers to have hospital admitting privileges. If upheld, that law will create a two-tiered system in the state where wealthier, disproportionately white women will have greater access to abortion care than Black women … The question before the Supreme Court this March clearly has far-reaching implications for thousands of Black women who are already vulnerable to the pains of generational poverty. Critical civil rights are hopelessly entangled with the constitutional question of abortion rights. Black women deserve to live their lives on their own terms, pursue educational and economic opportunities, and seek personal stability free from regressive state interventions like Louisiana’s Act 620. We can only hope the Justices will agree.” [Essence, 3/3/20]

Clarke Has An Excellent Record On LGBTQIA+ Rights

Clarke Supported Protections For LGBTQ Workers Under Title VII. “Outlawing job discrimination based on LGBTQ status is fully consistent with Title VII’s long history of anti-discrimination achievements, as well as the statutory text that has made those successes possible … If Title VII does not bar LGBTQ discrimination, that will leave many LGBTQ people of color vulnerable to workplace discrimination—an outcome contrary to Congress’ paramount goal of ensuring equal access to employment opportunities for minorities … Everyone deserves the right to work free from harassment and discrimination. The Lawyers’ Committee will continue to fight to ensure that LGBTQ employees, especially those of color, are protected from discrimination in the workplace.” [Lawyers’ Committee, 7/3/19]

Clarke Praised President Obama’s Repeal Of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell And Criticized President Trump’s Ban On Transgender People In The Military.

[Kristen Clarke Twitter, 12/21/20]

Clarke Has An Excellent Record On Human Rights

Clarke Called For Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell To Follow John Lewis’ Legacy By Advancing The Voting Rights Advancement Act. “The Voting Rights Advancement Act would respond to the proliferation of voter suppression efforts by creating a new formula to determine which states must get preclearance before changing voting laws. The House held numerous hearings last year documenting an extensive record of ongoing voting discrimination that makes clear the continuing need for the federal review process. Once passed, the bill would finally get the federal government back into the business of ensuring our democracy is fair and equitable. But McConnell continues to ignore this ongoing threat to our democracy as the bill gathers dust in the legislative graveyard that is the U.S. Senate. His hostility is remarkable given that back in 2006, Congress had previously renewed the federal review provision by a 390-33 vote in the House and unanimous 98-0 vote in the Senate. Lewis knew how vital this bill was to safeguarding democracy. He banged the gavel down hard as he announced its passage in the House. That was one of his final public acts as a congressman. Less than three weeks later, he announced he was being treated for pancreatic cancer. It is up to those of us who stand on Lewis’ shoulders to carry on his legacy. However, it is time for Senate Majority Leader McConnell to do his part and bring the Voting Rights Advancement Act forward for a hearing and a vote.” [USA Today, 7/20/20]

Clarke Challenged Joe Biden To Fight For Racial Justice And Reverse The Discriminatory Policies He Brought About. “The real question is not are we ready, but is Joe Biden ready? Is he ready to undertake the difficult, complex and painstaking work that will be necessary to eliminate the toxic root of racism embedded deep in our nation’s systems and structures? Is he ready to address the damage that has been done to institutions that lie at the heart of our democracy—including our courts and our federal agencies, that have been dramatically transformed in the last few years with appointments of extremists that do not reflect the diversity of our nation. He looked George Floyd’s daughter in the eye, but is Biden really ready to lead our nation through a long-overdue period of policing reform needed to bring about an end to racialized police violence? Is he ready to confront the legacy of harsh sentencing laws that have undermined the lives of Black and brown people across the country, laws that he had a hand in bringing about.” [USA Today, 8/24/20]

See More