Gay Rights Supporters Urge Senate To Denounce Attacks On FCC Nominee

A broad coalition of gay rights supporters is urging the Senate to confirm longtime consumer advocate Gigi Sohn to the Federal Communications Commission, which is currently deadlocked with two Democrats and two Republicans.

“A fully-functioning FCC that can advance broadband access, ensure all voices are heard, and protect all Americans' privacy is critically important to not just one community or demographic, but to our entire nation,” the LGBTQ Victory Institute and 21 other groups say in a letter sent Monday to Senate leaders.

The organizations add that Sohn is "one of the nation’s leading public advocates for open, affordable, and democratic communications networks."

"Gigi has worked across the country to defend and preserve the fundamental competition and innovation policies that have made broadband internet access more ubiquitous, competitive, affordable, open, and protective of user privacy," the letter says.

President Joe Biden first nominated Sohn to the FCC more than one year ago, but the full Senate has yet to hold a confirmation vote.

If approved by the Senate, Sohn would be the first openly gay commissioner.

Sohn served as counselor to prior FCC Commissioner Tom Wheeler, who presided over the agency when it passed net neutrality rules that prohibited broadband carriers from blocking or throttling traffic, and from charging higher fees for prioritized delivery. Her confirmation to the FCC would give the agency the votes it needs to reinstate those rules.

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce is lobbying against her nomination -- in part because of her support for net neutrality regulations.

Numerous digital rights groups have expressed support for her, as has current FCC Chair Jessica Rosenworcel.

Last month, the conservative outlet Daily Mail attempted to smear Sohn by suggesting there was something unsavory about her membership on the board of the longstanding digital rights group Electronic Frontier Foundation.

The Daily Mail called the group “a nonprofit that wants to uphold sex work online,” and said Sohn was “a proud member.”

The piece included photos of Sohn and a sex worker.

The Electronic Frontier Foundation has sued to invalidate laws that restrict speech online -- including a 2017 law that allows state prosecutors to bring charges against websites that facilitate prostitution. (Among other arguments, the Electronic Frontier Foundation says the law is so broad that it could result in prosecution of sites that provide health-related information or safety tips for sex workers.)

The LGBTQ Victory Institute and other groups are urging lawmakers to reject the “morally corrupt” attacks on Sohn.

“Homophobic and sexist fearmongering should have no place in the consideration of Gigi’s qualifications,” the letter says.

“It’s morally corrupt and antithetical to the high virtue of the Chamber,” the groups continue. “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.”

The Electronic Frontier Foundation also addressed the smear campaign against Sohn.

“The flurry of hyperbole and personal attacks should not be allowed to deflect attention from the most important thing about Gigi Sohn's nomination: She is one of the most qualified people possible for the role of FCC commissioner,” the group wrote last week. “She has been a fair and balanced advocate for public interest for her entire career...The public deserves an FCC commissioner who will fight for net neutrality, for rural broadband access, and for strong internet infrastructure.”

The Senate Commerce Committee is expected to soon hold another hearing on Sohn's nomination, but hasn't yet scheduled a date.

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