Prominent Indian-American civil rights lawyer Vanita Gupta has been confirmed by the US Senate as associate attorney general, making her the first person of colour to occupy the third-highest position at the Department of Justice. Republican Senator Lisa Murkowski broke away from her party colleagues to support Gupta (46), giving the Democrats 51 votes to see her through the historic confirmation on Wednesday.
The Senate voted 51-49 to confirm Gupta. Vice President Kamala Harris was present in the Senate to cast her vote in case of a tie. The two parties have 50 members each in the 100-seat United States Senate. Gupta is also the first civil rights lawyer to serve at one of the top three positions at the Department of Justice. Senate Majority Leader, Senator Chuck Schumer, who played a key role in her confirmation, said Gupta is the first-ever woman of colour and civil rights attorney to serve in the role. The daughter of Indian immigrants who was born and raised in the Philadelphia area, Gupta has had an illustrious career of fighting for civil rights. She received her Bachelor of Arts degree from Yale University and Juris Doctor from New York University.
At the age of 28, she started her career at the NAACP Legal Defense Fund where she successfully overturned the wrongful drug convictions of 38 Black Americans in Tulia, Texas.
From 2014 to 2017, Gupta served as the assistant attorney general for civil rights under President Barack Obama, where she advanced criminal justice reform, prosecuted hate crimes, protected voting rights and fought against discrimination.