Metro Weekly

Sen. Mike Lee holds up lesbian’s re-nomination to EEOC, which could stop working altogether

Senator calls Feldblum's nomination a "threat" to marriage due to her views in support of LGBTQ equality

U.S. Sen. Mike Lee, R-Utah – Photo: Gage Skidmore.

Sen. Mike Lee (R-Utah) is blocking the nomination of a lesbian re-nominated to serve another term on the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission because of her support for same-sex marriage.

The EEOC is comprised of five members, three who represent the party of the White House and two from the minority party, who issue guidance on workplace discrimination and sexual harassment, and help people file complaints.

Lee has vowed to block Commissioner Chai Feldblum’s re-nomination to the EEOC, objecting to her views on LGBTQ equality. Typically, nominees of both parties are lumped together and rapidly confirmed on a bipartisan basis. But if any of President Trump’s nominees — whether Feldblum, or two Republicans nominated for open seats — fail to be confirmed, it could potentially create a major backlog of complaints and delay justice for those who believe they have been discriminated against.

In a statement issued earlier this year, Lee called Feldblum’s nomination a “threat to religious liberty and the institution of marriage,” and claiming that Feldblum, a Democrat, has “radical views of marriage and the appropriate use of government power” that “place her far outside even the liberal mainstream.”

Lee specifically points to Feldblum’s views on marriage and advocacy for government recognition of “diverse kinds” of partnerships that “move beyond the narrow confines of marriage politics” in the United States, accusing her of wanting to turn her opinions into federal policy. He also objects to Felblum’s — and, by extension, the EEOC’s — interpretation that LGBTQ people are protected by laws prohibiting sex discrimination.

“Feldblum has described modern-day politics as a ‘zero-sum game,’ where rights for LGBT Americans are secured only by curtailing the rights of religious Americans,” Lee said. “Likewise, Feldblum believes her radical agenda ‘cannot be adequately advanced if pockets of resistance… are permitted to flourish.’ She therefore has argued that ‘no individual exceptions based on religious beliefs’ should ever be allowed if they conflict with ‘the goal of liberty for gay people.'”

But the LGBTQ media advocacy organization GLAAD charges that Lee’s opposition to Feldblum is based on anti-gay animus, noting that the senator has a history of opposing any expansion of LGBTQ rights.

For instance, GLAAD notes that Lee has strongly opposed marriage equality, the repeal of the “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy preventing gay, lesbian, and bisexual people from serving in the U.S. military, and voted against the Employment Nondiscrimination Act.

He was also the chief sponsor of the First Amendment Defense Act, which, if passed, would allow people, businesses, and organizations to refuse goods and services to LGBTQ people, and government officials to ignore recognition of same-sex marriages, under the guise of “religious freedom.”

Lee has expressed the belief that employers have the right to fire employees if they disagree with their sexual orientation or gender identity, and that those traits do not merit the same protections as other characteristics, such as race or religion. He has also claimed that marriage equality poses threats to churches and people who oppose same-sex marriage because of their religious beliefs.

“Senator Mike Lee’s opposition to Commissioner Feldblum is not based on merit, but rather an opposition based who she is and how she doesn’t align with the Senator’s anti-LGBTQ beliefs,” Sarah Kate Ellis, the president and CEO of GLAAD, said in a statement. “Senator Lee’s open discrimination against Commissioner Feldblum is exactly why people like her belong on the EEOC.

“With many Americans seeking justice after surviving discrimination and sexual harassment in the workplace, it’s imperative that Majority Leader Mitch McConnell force a Senate-wide vote and confirm Chai Feldblum,” Ellis added. “One anti-LGBTQ activist should not silence many people seeking justice under the law.”

John Riley is the local news reporter for Metro Weekly. He can be reached at jriley@metroweekly.com

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