Chai Feldblum

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Feldblum's official EEOC photo

Chai Rachel Feldblum (born April 1959)[1] was a Commissioner at the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, a former American law professor at Georgetown University Law Center, and an author and activist for disability rights and LGBT rights.[2] In fall 2009, she was nominated to a position on the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) by President Barack Obama,[3] in April 2010, she received a recess appointment to the EEOC, and in December 2010 she was confirmed to serve on the EEOC by the United States Senate.[4] The Senate confirmed her in December 2013 for a second term on the Commission which expired in July 2018.[5]

Early life and education[edit]

Chai Feldblum was born in New York City to Meyer Simcha and Esther Feldblum. Meyer Simcha Feldblum was born in Lithuania and survived the Holocaust by living in the forests of Poland.[6] He came to the United States following WWII, where he earned his ordination and Ph.D from Yeshiva University in New York City and became a rabbi and a Professor of Talmud, first at Yeshiva University and then at Bar Ilan University in Israel.[7] Esther Feldblum was the daughter of Rabbi Ephraim Eliezer Yolles, a Hasidic Rebbe (the Samborer Rebbe) of Philadelphia.[8] Esther Feldblum received her Ph.D in Jewish history from Columbia University and taught for one year at Brooklyn College before dying in a car accident at the age of 41.[6] Her dissertation, The American Catholic Press and the Jewish State: 1917-1959, was published as a book posthumously.[9]

Chai Feldblum grew up in Washington Heights in New York City.[10] Her Orthodox Jewish upbringing shaped her commitment to social justice work.

Chai Feldblum attended the Yeshiva University High School for Girls in Queens, New York before majoring in Ancient Studies and Religion at Barnard College in the class of 1979.[10] Feldblum received her J.D. from Harvard Law School in 1985.[11][12] Coming from a long line of Orthodox Jewish rabbis [13] she once aspired to be a talmudic scholar. She left Orthodox Judaism by the time she was a "young adult".[14]


Chai Feldblum picture in her Commissioner office
Chai Feldblum, August 2011.

After graduating from law school, Feldblum clerked for federal Judge Frank M. Coffin on the United States Court of Appeals for the First Circuit and then for Justice Harry A. Blackmun on the Supreme Court of the United States.[11]

While working from 1988-1990[15] as Legislative Counsel to the AIDS Project of the American Civil Liberties Union, Feldblum was the lead attorney on the team drafting the Americans with Disabilities Act, which became law in 1990.[11]

She joined the faculty of Georgetown University Law Center in Washington, DC in 1991, teaching classes on "legislative lawyering," a phrase she coined to describe the work of the attorneys who craft or lobby for legislation.[11] She founded and is the director of the university's Federal Legislation Clinic.[11]

Since joining Georgetown, Feldblum has continued her own legislative lawyering career. In 1993, she was the legal director for the Campaign for Military Service, a group which lobbied to overturn policies forbidding gay and bisexual people from serving openly in the U.S. armed forces.[16][17] The CMS was the first organization to air a nationwide television commercial on a gay rights issue.[18]

In 2003, Feldblum became co-director of Georgetown's Workplace Flexibility 2010 project, which works to improve conditions for employers and employees.[12][19] The program focuses on flexible work arrangements (FWAs), including phased retirement, non-traditional scheduling and number of hours worked, telecommuting, and multiple points of exit and re-entry into the workforce.[20][21]

In 2006, she founded the Moral Values Project, with the mission statement:

We believe that moral values matter in the governing of our polity. And we believe that Americans can articulate, and live up to, a more progressive set of moral values regarding sexuality, sexual orientation and gender equity. Sexuality can be a positive, important force in our lives. Heterosexuality, homosexuality and bisexuality are all morally neutral. But the love that is expressed by those who are straight, gay or bisexual is morally good – and all equally morally good. All forms of gender are morally neutral. But lack of gender equity is morally bad.[22]

More recently, she was the lead drafter of the Employment Non-Discrimination Act, which would prohibit employment discrimination based on someone's real or perceived sexual orientation.[11] She also worked on passage of the ADA Amendments Act of 2008, and has testified before Congress on numerous occasions.[12]

EEOC nomination[edit]

In 2009, President Barack Obama nominated Feldblum for one of the seats on the five-member Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. In response to attacks on her, Obama stated in an October 10 speech to the gay rights group Human Rights Campaign:

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. And it's for this reason if any of my nominees are attacked not for what they believe but for who they are, I will not waver in my support because I will not waver in my commitment to ending discrimination in all its forms.[23]

In testimony before the United States Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions, Feldblum testified that she did not believe in governmental endorsement of polygamy or polyamorous relationships,[24] consistent with her own writings in which she had always restricted such endorsement to non-sexual domestic partners.[25] She testified that she, therefore, asked for her name to be removed from "Beyond Marriage," a document that supported legal recognition of a variety of nontraditional relationships besides marriage, including "Committed, loving households in which there is more than one conjugal partner."[26]

Obama made a recess appointment of Feldblum and three other nominees to the EEOC on March 27, 2010.[27] On December 22, 2010, the U.S. Senate confirmed Feldblum to the seat on the EEOC for a term expiring July 1, 2013.[4] She is openly lesbian, and is the first openly LGBT person to serve on the EEOC.[28]

On December 9, 2013, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid filed for cloture on Feldblum's renomination to serve for another term on the EEOC, expiring on July 1, 2018.[29] On December 11, 2013, the Senate voted 57-39 to break the filibuster, paving the way for a final vote on Feldblum's nomination. Then, on December 12, 2013, Feldblum was confirmed to a full term in a 54-41 vote.[5]

Personal life[edit]

Chai Feldblum is openly lesbian.[30]

Select bibliography[edit]

  • Sexual Orientation, Morality, and the Law: Devlin Revisited (1996).[15]
  • The Federal Gay Civil Rights Bill: From Bella to ENDA in Creating Change: Sexuality, Public Policy, & Civil Rights ( J. D'Emilio, W. Turner & U. Vaid eds. 2000).[15]
  • Rectifying the Tilt: Equality Lessons from Religion, Disability, Sexual Orientation and Transgender, University of Maine Law Review (Tenth Annual Coffin Lecture) (2003).[11][15]
  • The Art of Legislative Lawyering and the Six Circles of Legislative Advocacy, 34 McGeorge L. Rev. 785 (2003).[11]
  • Gay is Good: The Moral Case for Marriage Equality and More, 17 Yale J.L. & Feminism 139-184 (2005).[12]
  • The Definition of Disability in the Americans With Disabilities Act: Its Successes and Shortcomings, 9 Emp. Rts. & Emp. Pol'y J. 473-498 (2005) (co-authored piece).[12]
  • Moral Conflict and Liberty: Gay Rights and Religion, 72 Brook. L. Rev. 61-123 (2006).[12]
  • The Right to Define One's Own Concept of Existence: What Lawrence Can Mean for Intersex and Transgender People, 7 Geo. J. Gender & L. 115-139 (2006).[12]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Professor of Pride: Georgetown Law's Nan Hunter wields academic activism, November 27, 2008. MetroWeekly [Washington, DC].. Accessed October 11, 2009.
  2. ^ Biography: Chai Feldblum, Georgetown University Law Center. Accessed October 11, 2009.
  3. ^
  4. ^ a b Keen, Lisa (2010-12-23). "Senate confirms Feldblum for EEOC". Keen News Service. Retrieved 2010-12-28.
  5. ^ a b
  6. ^ a b Pollak, Suzanne (July 22, 2015). "Out in Front: Openly gay EEOC commissioner feels 'blessed'" (subscription required). Washington Jewish Week.
  7. ^ "Paid Notice: Deaths: Feldblum, Professor Rabbi Mayer Simcha" (August 11, 2002). New York Times. Retrieved November 12, 2016.
  8. ^ "Rabbi Efrayim Eliezer Yolles, Samborer Rebbe of Philadelphia" ( user-contributed genealogical profile). Retrieved November 12, 2016.
  9. ^ Penkower, Monty N. (December 1978). Review of The American Catholic and the Jewish State, 1917–1959, by Esther Yolles Feldblum. American Jewish History. Vol. 68, No. 2, p. 236-239. Preview via JSTOR (registration required for full text). See also product description for book on
  10. ^ a b Orthodox-raised woman nominated as commissioner for EEOC, September 15, 2009. Voz iz neis? newspaper, Washington, DC. Accessed October 21, 2009.
  11. ^ a b c d e f g h "Georgetown Law, Clinical Faculty and Staff: Chai R. Feldblum". Georgetown University. Archived from the original on October 14, 2011. Retrieved 2016-11-12.
  12. ^ a b c d e f g Obama Nominates Chai Feldblum, LGBT/Equality Scholar, to EEOC Post, September 14, 2009. Accessed October 11, 2009.
  13. ^ Chai Feldblum Testimony Archived November 4, 2009, at the Wayback Machine., May 12, 1999. United States House Committee on the Judiciary. Accessed October 21, 2009.
  14. ^ [1]
  15. ^ a b c d Bio: Chai Feldblum Archived June 26, 2010, at the Wayback Machine., March 4, 2005. Yale Law School. Accessed October 14, 2009.
  16. ^ U.S. opposes court interference in gay troop ban, March 5, 1993. New York Times. Accessed October 11, 2009.
  17. ^ No Easy Path for Legal Assault on New Gay Policy, July 25, 1992. New York Times. Accessed October 11, 2009.
  18. ^ Campaign for Military Service: Ad Title "West", 1993. GLAAD Media Library. Accessed October 11, 2009.
  19. ^ Workplace Flexibility 2010, official site. Accessed October 11, 2009.
  20. ^ Workplace Flexibility: Definition, official website. Accessed October 11, 2009.
  21. ^ A Comprehensive Public Policy Platform on Flexible Work Arrangements: Executive Summary, 2004. Official website. Accessed October 11, 2009.
  22. ^ Moral Values Project, official website. Accessed October 11, 2009.
  23. ^ Obama Speaks to HRC, ThinkProgress.Org, October 10, 2009. Accessed October 11, 2009.
  24. ^ U.S. Senate HELP Committee Hearing on Nominations for Commissioner and for General Counsel of the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission
  25. ^ See "Gay is Good: The Moral Case for Marriage Equality and More", 17 Yale J.L. & Feminism 139-184 (2005).
  26. ^ Beyond Marriage: Full Statement Archived 2006-09-20 at the Wayback Machine., official website. Accessed October 11, 2009.
  27. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2013-10-22. Retrieved 2010-03-27.
  28. ^
  29. ^
  30. ^

External links[edit]