Chai R. Feldblum, a nominee for the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), has withdrawn her support for a radical manifesto that endorsed polygamous households and argued traditional marriage should not be privileged “above all others.” She said she did not agree with parts of the “overly broad” statement.
In September CNA reported that Feldblum, a Georgetown University Law Center Professor, was listed as a signatory to the July 26, 2006 manifesto “Beyond Same-Sex Marriage: A New Strategic Vision for All Our Families & Relationships.”
According to Politico’s Ben Smith, in an early November letter to the statement’s organizers Feldblum asked that her name be removed.
“I signed this document because it supports societal recognition of relationships between LGBT couples. But the statement was overly broad and there are parts of it with which I do not agree. Because the text of the statement does not reflect my views, I must ask you to remove my name,” she said.
Smith said that the Beyond Marriage manifesto came from a part of the homosexual movement which is “uncomfortable with what it views as the conservative impulse to bring same-sex couples into traditional relationships… as opposed to the more radical goal of disestablishing marriage as a pillar of society.”
The manifesto’s signatories said they proposed a “new vision” for governmental and private recognition of “diverse kinds” of partnerships, households and families. They said they hoped to move “beyond the narrow confines of marriage politics” in the U.S., arguing that marriage should not be “legally and economically privileged above all others.”
Describing various kinds of households as no less socially, economically, and spiritually worthy than other relationships, the Beyond Marriage manifesto listed “committed, loving households in which there is more than one conjugal partner.”
It said same-sex “marriage” should be “just one option on a menu of choices.” Naming as one of its principles freedom from a “narrow definition of our sexual lives and gender choices, identities, and expression,” it charged that the political Right enforces “narrow, heterosexist definitions of marriage.”
Feldblum’s initial approval of the document was a topic at her confirmation hearing at the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions on Thursday.
Committee Chairman Tom Harkin, an Iowa Democrat, asked her why she had signed the document.
“In all those years I worked with you, I didn’t know you supported polygamy,” Harkin said jokingly, according to the blog of Legal Times.
Feldblum replied that she does not believe in polygamy and was sorry to have signed the document, an act she called a “mistake.”
The day before her hearing, Bill Donohue of the Catholic League for Religious and Civil Rights charged that Feldblum’s disavowal of the Beyond Marriage manifesto was “a farce.”
“She is running scared: she knew what she was signing and waited until the eleventh hour to bolt. Only a fool would be fooled by this patently insincere move,” Donohue said in a Wednesday statement.
He described the Beyond Same-Sex Marriage document as “the most radical, irresponsible assault on marriage and the family ever written.”
Andy Blom, Executive Director of American Principles in Action, has charged that Feldblum would pursue an “extremist agenda” at the EEOC that would lead to the “targeted government harassment of religious institutions.”
Opponents of Feldblum’s nomination have also raised concerns about her stance on religious freedom. In 2006 she told writer Maggie Gallagher:
“There can be a conflict between religious liberty and sexual liberty, but in almost all cases the sexual liberty should win because that's the only way that the dignity of gay people can be affirmed in any realistic manner.”
As an EEOC commissioner, Feldblum would enforce federal laws against discrimination.
The EEOC recently ruled that Belmont Abbey College, a Catholic institution, violated anti-discrimination law by removing contraceptive coverage “because only females take oral prescription contraceptives.” The ruling, which the college is contesting, overturned a prior EEOC finding that the college’s action was not discriminatory.