Chai Feldblum: Working for equality under Trump
In a strange twist of events, the Trump administration has nominated Chai Feldblum for a third term as a commissioner of the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), which will extend her service until 2023.
Given this administration’s track record in defending LGBTQ worker rights, Feldblum’s nomination is a surprise considering her admission of being “the first openly lesbian Commissioner of the EEOC.”
Chai Feldblum: A Jewish upbringing
Born in April 1959 in New York City, Feldblum grew up in Washington Heights to parents Meyer Simcha and Esther Feldbum.
Both parents were Jewish scholars: her father a rabbi and a Professor of Talmud while her mother had a Ph.D in Jewish history from Columbia University and taught a year at Brooklyn College before her death in a car accident.
Feldblum went to the Yeshiva University High School for Girls in Manhattan and majored in Ancient Studies and Religion at Barnard College.
Given her Orthodox Jewish background, she wanted to become a talmudic scholar but left her religion when she was a “young adult.”
After graduating from Harvard Law School with her J.D., she went to work as clerk for Judge Frank Coffin of the First Circuit Court of Appeals and for Supreme Court Justice Harry A. Blackmun (who authored the Roe v. Wade decision).
Chai Feldblum: Fighting for LGBTQ and the disabled
Later on, she had the lead attorney role in advancing the draft of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) of 1990, while also helping with the ADA Amendments Act of 2008.
Aside from helping draft the original Employment Nondiscrimination Act, she served as the legal director for the Campaign for Military Service (CMS) and the legislative counsel for the AIDS Project of the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU).
She became a Professor of Law at the Georgetown University Law Center in 1991 and founded the Law Center’s Federal Legislation and Administrative Clinic focusing on social justice.
She also founded Georgetown’s Workplace Flexibility 2010 project, a policy enterprise focusing on workplace flexibility issues.
She was nominated by then-President Barack Obama for one of the five seats of the EEOC in 2009.
Back then, Obama spoke in defense of her appointment: “Nobody in America should be fired because they’re gay, despite doing a great job and meeting their responsibilities. It’s not fair, it’s not right, we’re going to put a stop to it.”
Chai Feldblum as EEOC commissioner
Feldblum started her service at the EEOC in April 2010. She was later confirmed by the Senate for a second term, to end by 1 July 2018.
During her stint as commissioner, she focused on addressing employment of people with disabilities, sexual orientation and transgender discrimination, pregnancy accommodation, and harassment prevention among others.
During her Senate confirmation hearing, Feldblum brought her partner, Nan Hunter. Aside from being the first openly lesbian commissioner, she’s also the fourth person with a disability to work with the EEOC.
With President Donald Trump’s nomination of Feldblum for her third term, the White House said it has forwarded this to the Senate for her confirmation.
Naturally, conservatives are up in arms over the nomination. Feldblum had been targeted before for her stance against “religious liberty.”
Meanwhile, Human Rights Campaign legal director Sarah Warbelow said Feldblum is “well respected across the board, and I think any president is well advised to choose someone who has gained such a broad respect from such a broad number of people.”