Conservative Utah State Senator Mike Lee has blocked the reconfirmation of Chai Feldburn, the first lesbian member of the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC). Feldblum, who currently serves as one of the EEOC’s five commissioners, was appointed to the commission by President Barack Obama in 2010 and nominated for another term this year by Trump.
The EEOC is responsible for enforcing anti-discrimination laws, like those that prohibit discrimination in employment based on “race, color, religion, sex (including pregnancy, gender identity, and sexual orientation), national origin, age (40 or older), disability or genetic information.”
Feldblum’s position on the committee makes sense, as she is a longtime advocate for LGBTQ rights, women’s rights, and the rights of those living with a disability. But Senator Lee believed that Feldblum’s support for LGBTQ communities made her too radical to serve on the EEOC. Lee claims that Feldblum opposes “religious liberty” if it interferes with the rights of LGBTQ people.
In August, Feldblum wrote that “various groups have mischaracterized my views in an effort to paint me as a radical opponent of religious liberty.” Although Lee didn’t mention her status as the first openly lesbian EEOC member, Lee thinks that Feldblum’s background in supporting LGBTQ rights means that she will “use the might of government to stamp out traditional marriage supporters.” Lee called for a different nominee “who respects the institution of marriage and religious freedom for all Americans.”
Without Feldblum, however, the EEOC doesn’t have enough members to make decisions, which means it may be prevented from acting altogether. They also lose Feldblum’s advocacy around preventing discrimination based on gender and disability. After Lee voted against confirming Feldblum, Senator Patty Murray from Washingon tweeted, “We can’t allow one Republican senator to prevent the EEOC from holding employers accountable and protecting Americans from harassment and discrimination while on the job,” and called for Feldblum to be reconfirmed. For now, however, it looks like we are losing any lesbian representation on a committee charged with protecting LGBTQ communities in the workplace.