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Gay rights activist Chai Feldblum nominated for EEOC
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Gay rights activist Chai Feldblum nominated for EEOC

by Shaun Knittel - SGN Staff Writer

Family-values groups vehemently oppose President Obama's controversial nominee for the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), Chai Feldblum, because she plans to fight for Gay rights.

Feldblum's nomination to become a commissioner on the five-person EEOC board was passed out of the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee last week, and is now headed for a full Senate vote.

Feldblum, who is openly Lesbian, has spoken out in recent years about the usefulness of marriage and the way religious freedom is at odds with sexual freedom.

Groups such as the Traditional Values Coalition, Focus on the Family, Liberty Counsel and Concerned Women for America are questioning Feldblum's nomination.

"She's been an aggressive advocate for some of the most radical views that have ever been expressed," said Wendy Wright, president of Concerned Women for America.

In 2004, Feldblum outlined her strategy for strengthening Gay rights. "There is a war that needs to be fought - and it's not a war overseas where we're killing people in the name of liberating them," she said. "It is a war right here at home where we need to convince people that morality demands full equality for Gay people."

One of the religious right's biggest complaints is her support of a 2006 petition for Beyond Marriage, a group that advocates expanding the definition of marriage. The petition stated, "Marriage is not the only worthy form of family or relationship, and it should not be legally and economically privileged above all others."

The petition demanded that the government start recognizing nontraditional families, including "Queer couples who decide to jointly create and raise a child with another Queer person or couple, in two households" and "committed, loving households in which there is more than one conjugal partner."

During the Senate committee hearing last week, she backed away from the petition she signed in 2006, calling it a mistake.

Still, although Feldblum has been endorsed by a number of religious groups and worked for years as a pro bono attorney for Catholic Charities, it is religious employers who are worried about her potential impact as commissioner in the EEOC. In particular, they point to her writings in the Brooklyn Law Review in 2006. "As a general matter, once a religious person or institution enters the stream of commerce & I believe the enterprise must adhere to a norm of non-discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity," she wrote.

Later that same year, she said, "There can be a conflict between religious liberty and sexual liberty, but in almost all cases the sexual liberty should win."

Again, when asked about the issue before the Senate health committee she softened her position and said, "I also have a deep respect for and understanding of religious practice, and a deep-seated tolerance for religious difference."

Feldblum's supporters say critics are too focused on her advocacy instead of her work drafting landmark disability and non-discrimination legislation.

"She has spent her career fashioning solutions to thorny issues and she really has a tremendous track record of achievement and accomplishment," said Winnie Stachelberg, senior vice president for external affairs at the liberal Center for American Progress.

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