A lesbian member of the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission is poised to serve another term after having played a part in a ruling that provided non-discrimination protections to transgender workers.
On Thursday, the White House announced that President Obama has selected Chai Feldblum for another five-year term on the bipartisan panel, which enforces federal laws against workplace discrimination.
Feldblum, the first openly LGBT person to serve on the EEOC, is credited with coordinating a unanimous decision last year in the case of Macy v. Holder that interpreted Title VII of the Civil Rights Act to protect transgender people. The commission reasoned the existing prohibition against gender bias in the workplace applies to transgender people.
Tico Almeida, president of the LGBT group Freedom to Work, praised Feldblum’s re-nomination and said she has “worked tirelessly to build bi-partisan consensus” to improve employment laws.
“Feldblum deserves our praise not only for her leading role in the unanimous EEOC decision in Macy v. Holder, but also for her leadership in drafting the EEOC’s new Strategic Enforcement Plan, which explicitly lists workplace protections for LGBT Americans among the Commission’s national priorities,” Almeida said. “Commissioner Feldblum has demonstrated a strong commitment to opening the EEOC’s doors to the LGBT victims of unfair discrimination who were previously turned away when they sought help from the Commission.”
Prior to serving on the EEOC, Feldblum was a nationally recognized gay rights attorney. She’s credited with the drafting the Americans with Disabilities Act, which was signed into law in 1990, and the Employment Non-Discrimination Act, which has yet to become law.
She’s also had experience in LGBT activism. Feldblum was the legal director for the Campaign for Military Service, a group that unsuccessfully fought in the early 1990’s against the enactment of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.” She’s also the partner of Nan Hunter, a Georgetown University law professor with experience in LGBT cases.
Feldblum’s initial nomination to the EEOC faced difficulties in the Senate. One or more unidentified senators placed a secret hold on her and four other EEOC nominees. In March 2010, Obama cleared the way for her to serve by making a recess appointment. The Senate later confirmed her in December 2010.