LGBTQ groups condemn identity-based attacks on Gigi Sohn, urge confirmation
Twenty-two LGBTQ advocacy organizations are urging Congress to confirm the nomination of Gigi Sohn to the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), condemning attacks on her identity that have forced her nomination to languish for more than a year.
In a letter sent Monday to Senate leadership, groups including the LGBTQ Victory Fund and the National LGBTQ Task Force wrote that it is “past time” for Sohn, who was first nominated in October 2021, to join the FCC and “use her tremendous qualifications for the betterment of our country.”
“Our diversity is our power,” the groups wrote Monday in a reference to Sohn’s history-making nomination. If her nomination to the FCC is confirmed, Sohn would be the agency’s first openly gay commissioner.
The FCC has been without a fifth commissioner for nearly two years, leaving the agency that oversees interstate and international communications deadlocked with two Democrats and two Republicans. Sohn’s confirmation would give Democrats a majority at the FCC, paving the way for the party to accomplish telecommunications objectives set by the Biden administration, including reinstating net neutrality rules that the Republican-led FCC voted to repeal in 2017.
But Sohn, a lawyer with more than three decades of experience in technology and privacy law who served as a top aide to former FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler, has faced an onslaught of online attacks that have called her qualifications into question.
Among them is an accusation that Sohn, who sits on the board of directors of the Electronic Frontier Foundation, a nonprofit digital rights group, opposes anti-sex trafficking efforts because of the organization’s stance on proposed federal legislation to crack down on sex trafficking.
The EFF has argued that two Republican-led bills — the Stop Enabling Sex Traffickers Act (SESTA) and Allow States and Victims to Fight Online Sex Trafficking Act (FOSTA) — “will not stop sex trafficking and will instead make stopping it harder.”
The organization has also argued that the bills amount to censorship of legal free speech that advocates for the decriminalization of sex work and provides health and safety information to sex workers.
Articles published late last month in outlets including Fox News and the Daily Mail allege Sohn and the EFF oppose efforts to protect victims of sex trafficking. Breitbart has claimed that Sohn has “far-left sympathies” and would censor conservative voices if appointed to the FCC.
These and similar claims have fueled a belief held by extremists affiliated with movements including the QAnon conspiracy that Sohn supports sex trafficking and is actively participating in a secret plot by Democrats to silence conservatives, the LGBTQ media advocacy group GLAAD wrote in a recent report analyzing posts about Sohn in far-right chatrooms.
On TruthSocial, the social media site launched by former President Trump, users including former U.S. Republican Rep. Devin Nunes have referred to Sohn as a “she-male” and a “fringe lunatic,” according to the GLAAD report.
In Monday’s letter to Congress, LGBTQ groups — including GLAAD — wrote that Sohn’s stalled nomination was the result of “homophobic tropes and attacks.”
“That cannot stand,” the groups wrote. “Homophobic and sexist fearmongering should have no place in the consideration of Gigi’s qualifications. It’s morally corrupt and antithetical to the high virtue of the Chamber.”
“Americans deserve a full-functioning FCC. We call upon every member of the Senate to condemn homophobia and sexism and consider Gigi’s nomination on its merits. We urge Members to confirm Ms. Sohn to the seat she is so qualified for without delay,” the groups wrote.
Monday’s letter was addressed to Senate Majority Leader Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.), Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) and Sens. Maria Cantwell (D-Wash.) and Ted Cruz (R-Texas), respectively the chair and ranking member of the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation.
Sohn is expected to appear before the committee for a third hearing later this year.
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