Donald Trump’s nominee for Assistant Secretary for Civil Rights at the U.S. Department of Education, Kenneth Marcus, has no meaningful history of supporting civil rights, but he does have a sordid history of trying to squash dissent.
After passing out of the Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee on a party line vote, the full Senate is expected to vote on Marcus’s nomination by next week.
Marcus is no stranger to Defending Rights & Dissent. As head of the Brandeis Center, he has for years pushed:
- state bills meant to penalize participants in boycotts for Palestinian human rights,
- federal bills meant to impose McCarthyite thought policing on Middle Eastern studies departments,
- frivolous complaints alleging that student advocacy for Palestinian human rights violates federal civil rights laws.
The last part is extremely disturbing. The Department of Education Office of Civil Rights (OCR) has repeatedly rejected claims that student advocacy for Palestinian human rights violates federal civil rights law. But if Trump gets his way, Marcus will be heading the OCR, meaning he’ll have the opportunity to impose his cockamamy legal theories.
It isn’t just free speech advocates who should be concerned with Marcus. Defending Rights & Dissent has joined together with civil rights groups, labor unions, and others to oppose Marcus. The letter, drafted by the Leadership Conference on Civil Rights, outlines how Marcus has shown no desire to protect the civil rights of LGBTQ people, people with disabilities, or immigrants. When Marcus was head of the US Commission on Civil Rights he opposed affirmative action and expanding the scope of their mission to protect the rights of LGBTQ people.
Marcus has shown little interest in defending the civil rights of vulnerable people, but he has shown a strong desire to distort civil rights law to silence political speech he disagrees with.