On Friday, President Obama announced three appointments to the 5-seat Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), an organization tasked with ensuring the fairness of the American labor market, a vast beast with 5 million employers and 130 million workers.
One of these appointments is Professor Chai Feldblum of Georgetown Law School, one of the top U.S. law schools. She is extremely well-qualified, and is nationally known as an expert on employment law. Her appointment was held up by the Senate, which has a constitutional duty to advise and consent to senior federal officers, along with hundreds of other appointments, apparently for no other reason than the Republican vow to make the Obama Administration fail. The Senate rules permit holding up votes on federal officers if even one Senator objects, and the name of the Senator is often kept secret.
I attended a meeting with Commissioner Feldblum to discuss ENDA several years ago, and I was very impressed with her understanding of the legal issues involved in LGBT discrimination, and her ability to cut to the heart of the matter. Her partner is another Bilerico contributor, the incredibly intelligent Nan Hunter, also a law professor at Georgetown. I am ecstatic that Feldblum has been appointed to this post. More backstory after the jump.
Using a loophole known as the "recess appointment" procedure, President Obama was able to move forward on 15 of the most crucial posts. The President can appoint officers during a Congressional recess without Senatorial approval, and Congress is now on Easter recess. The appointments will still need to be approved by the Senate by the end of 2011. Three of these appointments were Commissioner seats on the 5 member EEOC, particularly important given the Obama Administration's committment to civil rights. President Obama's other appointments to the EEOC are Jacqueline Berrien, Associate Director of the NAACP's Legal Defense Fund, and Victoria Lipnic, a management-side labor lawyer (and a Republican). David Lopez, currently with the EEOC's Phoenix office, was named the EEOC's General Counsel.
According to Wikipedia, Commissioner Feldblum "comes from a long line of Orthodox Jewish rabbis." One of four children, Feldblum was born in New York City to Esther Yolles Feldblum, Ph.D., a native of Philadelphia and a professor at Brooklyn College; and her husband Rabbi Mayer Simcha Feldblum, Ph.D., a Holocaust survivor who emigrated to the United States from Lithuania after World War II.
She attended the Yeshiva University High School for Girls in New York before majoring in Ancient Studies and Religion at Barnard College. Feldblum received her J.D. from Harvard Law School in 1985.
After law school, she clerked for the First Circuit Court of Appeals, and then U.S. Supreme Court Harry Blackmun (who penned the opinion in Roe v. Wade, though that was years earlier). She worked as legislative counsel to the AIDS Project of the ACLU. While there, she was the lead attorney on the team drafting the Americans with Disabilities Act, which became law in 1990.
She has taught at Georgetown since 1991. She continued to be active in community service while at Georgetown. People often don't realize that a significant part of a professor's job is to use their knowledge and research out in the world. In 1993, she was the legal director for the Campaign for Military Service, a group which lobbied to overturn anti-gay military policies. In 2003, she became co-director of Georgetown's Workplace Flexibility 2010 project, which works to improve conditions for employers and employees. The program focuses on flexible work arrangements, including phased retirement, non-traditional scheduling, telecommuting, and multiple points of exit and re-entry into the workforce.
In 2006, she founded the Moral Values Project, which seeks to develop progressive moral values regarding sexuality, sexual orientation and gender, and intervene in the political discourse to promote a more progressive set of public policies. To my mind, this might be the most important of her work. Too often, when people hear "morality," they think of conservative morality, not realizing that there is no monopoly on moral values, and that progressives also have moral values. Gender equity is also a moral value.
Professor Feldblum was also one of the lead drafters of the pending Employment Non-Discrimination Act bill. This is another reason I am ecstatic about her appointment. Now there is another voice in the Administration to point up the importance of this key piece of legislation.
I've read all of her law review articles with pleasure, and I've discussed them in my own writings on the law. There's no question that she is one of the most knowledgeable and insightful people in the field.