Now Reading
Lesbian nomination to US employment agency expires in the Senate

Lesbian nomination to US employment agency expires in the Senate

A lesbian attorney’s nomination to serve on the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) has died in US Senate.

Chai Feldblum, who is openly gay, will no longer serve as an EEOC commissioner after the Senate did not vote to end an impasse regarding her nomination.

Feldblum’s nomination for the EEOC was blocked by Mike Lee, the Republican Senator from Utah, in December last year.

Lee cited a rule which allows single senators to block or kill off non-judiciary presidential nominees, arguing that Feldblum was opposed to ‘religious freedom’.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell – effectively siding with Lee – refused to hold a vote to break the deadlock over Feldblum’s nomination, thereby putting an end to Feldblum’s tenure in the EEOC.

The move has been condemned by both supporters of Feldblum and LGBTI rights activists, the Washington Blade reports.

‘Now is the time to fight even harder for diversity, safety, and equity.’

A former Georgetown University Law Center professor, Feldblum had served on the commission since 2010.

Posting on Facebook on Thursday (3 January), Feldblum wrote: ‘Today at noon my commission on the EEOC expires. What a wonderful almost nine-year run I have had! I will always be grateful for the wonderful colleagues I have served with on the Commission.

‘Thank you to everyone who worked so hard for my confirmation. We certainly gave it our best shot. Now is the time to fight even harder for diversity, safety, and equity. There is no other way!’ she added.

Feldblum had been nominated for a third term by US President Donald Trump at the request of Senate Democrats, in a tradition held with regards to EEOC appointments.

The long-standing tradition allows bipartisan representation on the EEOC, with three nominees from the ruling party and two from the opposition.

However, when blocking Feldblum’s nomination on 24 December, Lee accused her of being an unreasonable opponent of ‘religious freedom’, and objecting to her stance that an employer cannot cite religious beliefs as grounds for refusing to hire certain job candidates.

Outrage from supporters & LGBTI rights activists

Both Feldblum’s supporters and LGBTI rights advocates were outraged by the decision.

Many countered that Feldblum was highly supportive of religious freedoms, while others stated that her nomination was blocked in part because of her sexuality.

‘As a skilled attorney and public servant who has passionately advocated for equality under the law, Feldblum more than deserved to be confirmed for another term,’ said David Stacy, the Director of Government Affairs for LGBTI rights group, Human Rights Campaign.

‘While Senate Democrats fought hard to move her nomination forward and she most certainly would have been confirmed with strong bipartisan support, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell shamefully refused to schedule a vote,’ Stacy added.

‘The blame for this disgraceful outcome falls squarely on the shoulders of Senator Lee and Senate Majority Leader McConnell,’

Elliot Imse, Senior Director of Communications for the LGBTQ Victory Institute, which advocates for the election and appointment of LGBTI people in public office, was equally as scathing.

‘Mike Lee is a bigot, period, and his actions must be condemned by all members of Congress who believe LGBTQ Americans have the right to work free of discrimination,’ Imse said.

Imse also described Feldblum’s removal from her position due to her sexuality as ‘height of irony and absolutely unconscionable’.

History of anti-LGBTI rights legislature

Lee, who has served as the Senator for Utah since 2011, has a history of citing religious freedom when advocating anti-LGBTI rights legislature in the Senate.

In 2015, Lee attempted to pass a religious freedom bill, the First Amendment Defense Act, which would prevent federal agencies from blocking tax-exempt status to individuals, or businesses, who see marriage as the union between a man and woman.

Lee argued the bill would protect First Amendment rights. He also cited the bill while attacking the legalization of same-sex marriage by the Supreme Court in the same year.