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Out Lesbian Chai Feldblum appointed to EEOC
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Out Lesbian Chai Feldblum appointed to EEOC

by Mike Andrew - SGN Staff Writer

President Obama appointed openly Lesbian law professor Chai Feldblum to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) on March 27.

Feldblum is currently a professor at Georgetown University School of Law, and is co-director of the university's Federal Legislation and Administrative Clinic.

She has also served as legislative counsel for the ACLU in D.C., and as a law clerk to U.S. Supreme Court Justice Harry Blackmun.

Feldblum played a key role in drafting the Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA), and negotiating the final language with Congressional committee staff.

Should ENDA pass Congress, the EEOC will be charged with developing rules to implement it. The EEOC is also empowered to investigate complaints, file suits against employers, and resolve claims against federal agencies.

Feldblum was one of 15 "recess appointments" announced by the president.

If the U.S. Senate goes into recess before acting on nominations made by the president - as it now has for its spring break - he may make the appointments without their consent.

The 15 recess appointees are expected to begin work next week and will be able to serve without Senate confirmation until the end of 2011.

Although a Senate committee approved Feldblum's appointment last December, one Senate Republican put an anonymous and unspecified hold on her nomination. Under Senate rules, any senator can put any nominee on indefinite hold for any reason, without identifying him or herself.

Feldblum's appointment was reportedly held up because of her prior record of activism on LGBT issues.

Family Research Council President Tony Perkins, for example, warned senators that "Feldblum intends to use her position of influence as EEOC commissioner to force private institutions to follow her radical vision of society, through the enforcement of aggressive and intrusive employment non-discrimination laws."

Feldblum's signature on a July 2006 statement titled "Beyond Same-Sex Marriage" particularly enraged conservatives. The statement says that that "marriage is not the only worthy form of family or relationship, and it should not be legally and economically privileged above all others."

It also suggests that many people in non-traditional households "stand to gain from alternative forms of household recognition beyond one-size-fits-all marriage."

Feldblum subsequently repudiated the 2006 statement, and denied she personally favors polygamy or other controversial household arrangements.

According to White House Deputy Communications Director Jen Psaki, Pres. Obama has 77 nominees currently pending in the Senate. Fifty-eight of them have been waiting for over two weeks, and 44 of those have been waiting more than a month.

In contrast, by this same time in Pres. Bush's first term, he had only five nominees still awaiting confirmation.

The White House expressed frustration at the delay, and charged that Republican moves to block Pres. Obama's nominees were politically motivated.

"The United States Senate has the responsibility to approve or disapprove my nominees," Pres. Obama said in a statement. "But if, in the interest of scoring political points, Republicans in the Senate refuse to exercise that responsibility, I must act in the interest of the American people and exercise my authority to fill these positions on an interim basis."

Besides Feldblum other recess appointments include NAACP Legal Defense Fund Counsel Jacqueline Berrien to chair the EEOC, and union lawyers Craig Becker and Mark Pearce to sit on the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB).

Becker, who has worked for SEIU, the country's largest single union, and the AFL-CIO, its largest labor federation, was especially controversial with Republicans.

Psaki's statement notes that both the EEOC and the NLRB lacked a quorum and were unable to function while the president's nominees were held up by Senate Republicans.

Berrien's nomination had been held up for 254 days. Becker and Pearce had been waiting 261 days. Feldblum was first nominated by the president on September 16, 2009.

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