Tagline: Until the Work Is Done
Equality California Opposes Nomination of Far-Right, Anti-LGBTQ Ideologue Kenneth Marcus to Head the Office of Civil Rights
February 7, 2018 at 12:01 pm

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By: Valerie Ploumpis, National Policy Director

“I really couldn’t say, Senator,” was the reply Kenneth Marcus gave when Senator Patty Murray (D-WA) challenged him to “name a single example of something President Trump has said or done when it comes to discrimination or women’s rights or civil rights you disagree with” in his confirmation hearing before the Senate Judiciary Committee.

Marcus, who has been named to head the Office of Civil Rights (OCR) in the Department of Education, is only the latest Trump nominee whose primary qualification seems to be that he wants to dismantle the office to which he has been nominated.

The primary function of OCR is to protect civil rights in federally-assisted education programs and to prohibit discrimination on the bases of race, color, national origin, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, disability, age, or membership in patriotic youth organizations. Implementation of Federal education policy is carried out by ‘technical guidance’ which instructs K-12 schools and higher education institutions on how to comply with civil rights laws.

Equality California and a wide range of progressive organizations oppose the Marcus nomination on the grounds that his career and written record clearly reveal indifference – if not real animus – toward LGBTQ people, communities of color, immigrants, and the disabled.

We sent a letter to every U.S. Senator to explain why Kenneth Marcus is a far-right ideologue who, if confirmed, would serve under Secretary Betsy Devos who has herself dismantled protections for transgender students and demonstrated a shocking unwillingness to use Title IX to protect students against sexual assault on campus.

Specifically, throughout his career, Marcus has:

  • Opposed anti-LGBTQ employment protections;
  • Opposed the inclusion of sexual orientation to hate crimes protections, opining that the word of ‘hate’ was being misused to “describe people who simply disagree with a particular agenda, whether it be a general multicultural agenda, or agenda of a particular group like the homosexual community”;
  • Argued that the Hate Crimes Prevention Act was as an attack on First Amendment rights and a “slippery slope to controlling our thoughts and motivations”’
  • Opposed adding sexual orientation to civil rights protections because it would “elevate it to the same level as race and religion” and make “it easier for prosecutors to punish more harshly those who chose a gay victim because he’s gay than a straight victim for some other reasons”;
  • Fought curriculum aimed at spreading awareness of hate crime and bigotry in public schools on the grounds that it indicated the government’s “dangerous tendency to regulate speech and behavior which is simply politically incorrect…it is the tendency to tell some people that because of their moral, or religious, or political views, they will not be allowed to speak”;
  • Refused to affirmatively say that Title IX protections would be used to prevent and address sexual assault in K-12 and on college campuses if he were confirmed to lead the Office of Civil Rights.

Equality California believes that Kenneth Marcus is manifestly unfit for this key position in the Department of Education. The head of the Office of Civil Rights in any federal agency should be committed to protecting the civil rights of the most vulnerable. LGBTQ students, and particularly those who are gender-nonconforming, are acutely at risk and deserve a champion.

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