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Civil Rights Legal Pioneer Chai R. Feldblum to Receive GLAD’s 2019 Spirit of Justice Award

(Boston, MA) GLBTQ Legal Advocates & Defenders (GLAD) announced today that its 2019 Spirit of Justice Award will go to Chai R. Feldblum. GLAD will present the award to Feldblum at the 20th Annual Spirit of Justice Award Dinner on October 25, 2019, in Boston.

Feldblum was the first openly gay commissioner on the federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC). Nominated by President Obama in the fall of 2009, she served on the EEOC from April 2010 until January of this year. She is also a former Georgetown University law professor, an author and an advocate who has dedicated her distinguished career to advancing and defending the rights of LGBTQ people and people living with HIV. 

“Chai combines a brilliant legal mind with a heart and soul dedicated to advancing civil rights,” said Janson Wu, Executive Director of GLAD. “Her work has created the foundation for so many protections that LGBTQ people and those living with HIV count on today. GLAD is thrilled to recognize Chai with the 2019 Spirit of Justice Award.”

“It’s gratifying and humbling to be honored by an organization whose values are so closely aligned with mine,” said Feldblum. “We need the legal community to defend the values of equality and freedom, and we need cultural support for those values as well.  I have admired GLAD for years as it has operated on both of these fronts.”

Feldblum’s work at the EEOC was critical to fortifying the legal understanding that discrimination on the basis of gender identity or sexual orientation is discrimination “because of sex,” and that LGBTQ workers are therefore protected under existing federal sex discrimination law. Her achievements while at the EEOC also included expanding employment opportunities for people with disabilities and developing methods for preventing workplace harassment. 

At the AIDS Project of the American Civil Liberties Union, Feldblum helped draft and negotiate the ground-breaking federal Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), which became law in 1990, as well as the ADA Amendments Act of 2008. Feldblum was an instrumental partner with GLAD on the landmark 1998 Supreme Court case Bragdon v. Abbott case which established non-discrimination protections for people living with HIV under the ADA.

In her current role, as partner and Director of Workplace Culture Consulting at Morgan, Lewis & Bockius LLP, Feldblum helps companies and organizations create safe, respectful, and inclusive workplaces that prevent harassment on all bases, including sexual orientation and gender identity.

Feldblum taught law at Georgetown Law School for eighteen years, where she created and directed a Federal Legislation Clinic. The Clinic served non-profit clients including Catholic Charities USA and various disability rights clients. She attended Barnard College and Harvard Law School and clerked for Judge Frank Coffin on the First Circuit Court of Appeals and Justice Harry Blackmun on the U.S. Supreme Court. 

Previous SOJ honorees include Jose Antonio Vargas, the Honorable Eric H. Holder Jr, Phill Wilson, Jennifer Finney Boylan, Urvashi Vaid, Margaret J. Marshall, Deval Patrick and his family; Reverend Irene Monroe; Bishop Gene Robinson; Beth Robinson, John Ward, Terrence McNally, Mandy Carter; Reverend William Sinkford, Tim Gill, Del Martin and Phyllis Lyon, Tony Kushner, Laurence Tribe, and Mary L. Bonauto.

Feldblum will accept the award at the 20th Annual Spirit of Justice Award Dinner at the Boston Marriott Copley Place on October 25, 2019. The event is chaired by Mario Nimock and Annika Bockius-Suwyn. Details about the event are available at www.glad.org/events.