Senator: Extreme EEOC nominee puts religious liberty at risk

By Kevin Jones

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Chai Feldblum. Credit: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Public Domain.

The Trump administration’s re-nomination of Chai Feldblum to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission puts religious liberty and marriage in danger and should be withdrawn, one U.S. Senator said this week.

“If Feldblum were a typical Democrat, it might make sense to let her nomination proceed through the Senate along with her two Republican colleagues,” U.S. Sen. Mike Lee, R-Utah, wrote in a Feb. 14 commentary at The Daily Signal.

“But Feldblum is no typical Democrat. Her radical views on marriage and the appropriate use of government power place her far outside even the liberal mainstream.”

Lee objected that Feldblum, a former law professor at the Georgetown University Law Center appointed to the EEOC by President Barack Obama, opposes religious exemptions where they would conflict with LGBT advocates’ goals.

In 2006, writer Maggie Gallagher reported in the Weekly Standard that, in Feldblum’s words, “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.”

In Lee’s view, this differs from the Supreme Court’s view of an all-embracing tradition of religious freedom.

“Rather than a ‘zero-sum game’ that pits Americans against each other, we should work to build an America where ‘all possess alike liberty of conscience and immunities of citizenship’, as George Washington wrote in 1790,” the senator said.

He contended that Feldblum’s position contrasts with the U.S. Supreme Court’s 2015 decision mandating the legal recognition of same-sex unions as marriages. In that decision, Justice Anthony Kennedy said the First Amendment “ensures that religious organizations and persons are given proper protection as they seek to teach the principles that are so fulfilling and so central to their lives and faiths.”

In 2009, President Barack Obama named Feldblum to the EEOC as a recess appointment, later confirmed by the U.S. Senate. She was re-appointed in 2013.

In December 2017, the Trump White House said Feldblum’s nomination had been forwarded to the Senate. Feldblum’s current term expires in July 2018. If confirmed, she would serve until 2023, Reuters reports.

Lee said President Donald Trump and Senate Democrats should find “a more mainstream candidate” who “respects the institution of marriage and religious freedom for all Americans.”

Senator Lee’s commentary cited Feldblum’s doubts that marriage is “a normatively good institution” and her support, which she later withdrew, for the 2006 manifesto “Beyond Same-Sex Marriage: A New Strategic Vision for All Our Families & Relationships.” That document advocated the equality of polygamy and monogamy, praising “committed, loving households in which there is more than one conjugal partner.”

Current EEOC publications have held that “sex stereotypes” like “the belief that men should only date women or that women should only marry men” constitute illegal discrimination on the basis of sex. They say that the 1964 civil rights legislation against sex discrimination in the workplace includes discrimination “based on an applicant or employee's gender identity or sexual orientation.”

Lee noted that Feldblum has said that even though the EEOC only has jurisdiction over employment, other federal agencies that enforce sex discrimination provisions look to the EEOC for guidance.

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