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Anti-LGBTQ Group: Don't Reappoint Lesbian and Her 'Sexual Sin' to EEOC

Chai Feldblum

The American Family Association wants its supporters to contact Donald Trump and urge him to withdraw Chai Feldblum's renomination to the body.


The religious right is stepping up its opposition to the nomination of Chai Feldblum, a lesbian attorney and activist, to another term on the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.

Feldblum has served two terms on the commission, an independent federal agency that enforces antidiscrimination law, having been appointed by President Barack Obama in 2010. Her renomination by Donald Trump in 2017 was something of a surprise, given the many anti-LGBTQ officials he has chosen for various positions. But it is standard procedure for the party not in power -- in this case, the Democrats -- to nominate two of the five EEOC members, and the president essentially rubber-stamps them. Still, the move drew much criticism from the Christian right, including the Family Research Council, the Catholic League, and the National Organization for Marriage.

Now another virulently anti-LGBTQ group, the American Family Association, is calling on its supporters to contact Trump and urge him to withdraw Feldblum's nomination.

"Feldblum's influence at the EEOC places a so-called right to sexual deviancy (sexual sin) over and above religious liberty," says an AFA "Action Alert." "Her mixed-up views force Christians to abandon their deeply held religious beliefs on marriage and sexuality."

The AFA particularly objects to Feldblum's view that religious freedom is not an excuse for anti-LGBTQ discrimination. It cites this 2006 quote from an interview she did with The Weekly Standard, a conservative publication: "There can be a conflict between religious liberty and sexual liberty, but in almost all cases the sexual liberty should win because that's the only way that the dignity of gay people can be affirmed in any realistic manner." Feldblum has said she was misquoted in the article.

The organization also notes an EEOC case that may come before the Supreme Court. In 2014 the agency filed suit against R.G. & G.R. Harris Funeral Homes of Michigan, saying it illegally discriminated against funeral director Aimee Stephens by firing her because she is transgender. It said the company violated Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which bans sex discrimination. A trial court judge found that the business owner's religious belief that gender is immutable superseded Stephens's right to be free of discrimination, but an appeals court reversed the ruling. The company, represented by the anti-LGBTQ Alliance Defending Freedom, is appealing to the Supreme Court, which has yet to say if it will hear the case.

"The adverse effects of Chai Feldblum's warped worldview have infected the EEOC resulting in numerous rogue actions by the U.S. Executive Branch," the AFA contends.

Feldblum's second term on the EEOC ended in 2018, and a third term would run until 2023. The Senate has yet to take action on her renomination because it is being blocked by Republican Sen. Mike Lee of Utah. In December, Lee "objected to Feldblum being reappointed to the EEOC by unanimous consent, which is customary for bipartisan commissions," according to NBC News. "The move means she and the two GOP candidates for the commission will now require a lengthier and more complex confirmation process that will likely prevent the EEOC from convening in the new year as scheduled."

In a post on his Senate website last February, Lee claimed Feldblum has a "desire to use the might of government to stamp out traditional marriage supporters." Feldblum, who has argued for recognition of "the wide array of non-marital social structures," has a view that conflicts even with the 2015 Supreme Court decision that extended marriage rights to same-sex couples, in Lee's opinion.

He further noted that she signed what he called a "manifesto" calling for recognition of "diverse kinds" of relationships. This is likely a reference to a document supporting legal acknowledgment of polyamorous relationships; Feldblum eventually asked for her name to be removed from it.

But rather than threatening marriage, Feldblum's work at the EEOC -- which has jurisdiction only over employment -- has focused primarily on interpreting Title VII to cover discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity. She is "Washington's strongest champion" for the inclusive interpretation of the law, Bloomberg Businessweek once noted. Her view is in keeping with that endorsed by the Department of Justice under Obama, but the DOJ has reversed that position under Trump.

She has a long history of advocating for civil rights and social justice, not only as an EEOC member but as a Georgetown University Law Center professor and an American Civil Liberties Union attorney. She helped draft the Americans With Disabilities Act of 1990 (signed into law by President George H.W. Bush) and its 2008 amendments, along with the original Employment Non-Discrimination Act. The latter has never passed and has been superseded by the farther-reaching Equality Act, now pending in Congress.

In addition to his web post, Lee gave a speech to the Senate in December saying why he opposes Feldblum's confirmation to a third term. He used many of the same quotes featured in his online article, and Feldblum responded on Medium that they "were either misconstrued or taken out of context." She also said she has asked several times to meet with Lee and explain her views directly to him, but he has not taken her up on the offer.

GLAAD CEO Sarah Kate Ellis tweeted today about the harm being done by holding up the nominations of Feldblum and others, making it impossible for the EEOC to do its job.

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