Faculty and Staff
The Public Rights / Private Conscience Project is staffed by leading scholars working at the intersections between religious exemptions, sexual and reproductive liberty and equality rights, racial justice, and gender justice. We welcome questions about our work, and are accessible and happy to provide insight to academics, legal practitioners, law students, and journalists with inquiries regarding the intersection of law, rights and religion.
Director, Center for Gender & Sexuality Law
Faculty Advisor, Public Rights/Private Conscience Project
Office: Jerome Greene Hall, Room 627
Katherine Franke is the Sulzbacher Professor of Law at Columbia Law School, where she also directs the Center for Gender and Sexuality Law and is the faculty director of the Public Rights/Private Conscience Project. She is a member of the Executive Committee for the Institute for Research on Women, Gender and Sexuality, a member of the Steering Committee for the Center for the Study of Social Difference, and an Affiliated Faculty member for the Center for Palestine Studies. She is among the nation's leading scholars writing on law, religion and rights, drawing from feminist, queer, and critical race theory.
Her most recent book, Wedlocked: The Perils of Marriage Equality, NYU Press, 2015, considers the costs of winning marriage rights for same sex couples today and for African-Americans at the end of the Civil War. Franke was awarded a Guggenheim Fellowship in 2011 to undertake research for Wedlocked. In addition to her work at the Law School, she works regularly in Palestine, most recently serving as an academic mentor for the human rights faculty at Al Quds University in East Jerusalem, and sits on the steering committee of the Academic Advisory Council of Jewish Voice for Peace. She also chairs the board of directors of the Center for Constitutional Rights, based in New York City.
Before coming to the Law School, Franke was an associate professor at Fordham Law School and the University of Arizona College of Law. From 1990 to 1991, she was the executive director of the National Lawyers Guild. Prior to that, she worked for the New York City Commission on Human Rights and founded the AIDS and Employment Project.
Elizabeth Reiner Platt
Director, Public Rights/Private Conscience Project
Office: Jerome Greene Hall, Room 625
Liz Platt is the Director of the Public Rights/Private Conscience Project at the Center for Gender and Sexuality Law at Columbia Law School. Before joining Columbia, she was a Staff Attorney at MFY Legal Services Mental Health Law Project. After graduating from New York University School of Law, she was a Carr Center for Reproductive Justice Fellow at A Better Balance. During law school, Liz worked with the Urban Justice Sex Workers Project, New York Civil Liberties Union, and Brennan Center for Justice. In 2013, she published Gangsters to Greyhounds: The Past, Present and Future of Offender Registration, 37 N.Y.U. Rev. L. & Soc. Change 727 (2013).
Legislative and Policy Director, Public Rights/Private Conscience Project
Office: Jerome Greene Hall, Room 624
Ashe McGovern is the Legislative and Policy Director of the Public Rights/Private Conscience Project at the Center for Gender and Sexuality Law at Columbia Law School. Before joining Columbia, Ashe was a Policy Analyst at the Center for American Progress (CAP) in Washington, DC, where they engaged in state and federal public policy research, analysis, and advocacy, with a particular focus on LGBTQ poverty and the criminalization of LGBTQ communities. Prior to CAP, Ashe worked as an Equal Justice Works Fellow at New York Legal Assistance Group, where they launched the LGBTQ Health and Economic Justice Initiative to provide direct legal services and advocacy to low-income LGBTQ communities in New York.
During law school, Ashe worked at several civil rights organizations, including the National Center for Lesbian Rights, Lambda Legal, and as a Holley Law Fellow at the National LGBTQ Task Force. While a student at Cornell Law School, Ashe published their note, entitled, When Schools Refuse to Say Gay: The Constitutionality of Anti-LGBTQ "No-Promo-Homo" Public School Policies in the United States, 22 CORNELL J.L. & PUB. PO'Y 465 (2012), and participated in several legal clinics representing clients on a variety of matters, including clients experiencing violence in prison, families seeking lawful immigration status and low wage workers seeking union recognition. Ashe’s work has been published in The Nation, NPR, Huffington Post, The Advocate, and ThinkProgress, among other sites, and prior to law school, Ashe worked as an adult education teacher in Brooklyn.
Kira C. Shepherd
Director of the Racial Justice Program, Public Rights/Private Conscience Project
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Office: Jerome Greene Hall 624
Kira Shepherd is the Director of the Racial Justice Program at the Public Rights/Private Conscience Project at the Center for Gender and Sexuality Law at Columbia Law School. Before joining Columbia Law School she was the Executive Director and Director of Campaigns at The Black Institute (TBI), an action think tank that leads advocacy work in the areas of immigration, education, the environment, and economic justice. Prior to working at TBI, Kira was a Campaign Manager at ColorOfChange.org, the nation’s largest online civil rights organization, where she worked on criminal justice and corporate accountability campaigns. She also worked at the University of Pennsylvania’s Annenberg Pubic Policy Center where she managed a city-wide youth advocacy project that was instituted in every public high school in Philadelphia. Kira has also worked for Families for Freedom, a human rights organization by and for families facing and fighting deportation, and Make the Road New York, the largest member-led economic justice group in New York. Kira graduated from Rutgers University School of Law, Newark with a Juris Doctorate degree.
Assistant Director, Center for Gender and Sexuality Law
Office: Jerome Greene Hall 600/6
Liz Boylan was appointed to work with the Center for Gender and Sexuality Law in October of 2015. Liz is an arts and education administrator with interests in social justice, visual arts and the outdoors. Liz began working in arts administration in 2004, and since then has put her skills to work for various cultural and educational institutions in NYC including Goedhuis Contemporary, The College Art Association, Columbia Law School, the Center for Global Legal Transformation and the Tow Center for Digital Journalism.
Volunteering with organizations such as GMHC, the New York City LGBT Center and the Ali Forney Center ignited Liz's passion for LGBTQI activism and education.
Liz is an MPA Candidate with Columbia University's School of International and Public Affairs, and holds a Master of Science from Columbia University's School of Professional Studies in Sustainable Landscape Design.