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Tuesday, September 8, 2020

Orlando Congresswoman Val Demings introduces bill to allow LGBTQ+ people to donate blood

Posted By on Tue, Sep 8, 2020 at 4:52 PM

  • Phtoo courtesy U.S. Rep. Val Demings/Facebook
Orlando Congresswoman Val Demings and Illinois Rep. Mike Quigley introduced a bill in the House of Representatives to end the longstanding discrimination against LGBTQ+ blood donors last week.

The “Science in Blood Donation Act” would put an end to discrimination against potential LGBTQ+ blood donors, calling on the FDA to revise the outdated Guidance on Reducing the Risk of Human Immunodeficiency Virus Transmission (HIV) by Blood and Blood Products to focus on individual assessments of donors and modern testing capabilities rather than relying on, as Demings says, "archaic rules and ideologies" around sexual orientation and gender identity.

The FDA in 1985 instituted a lifetime ban on blood donations from men who've had sex with other men – amid a panic of discrimination and bad policy around the emerging health crisis of HIV and AIDS – and then amended that in 2015 to a still-discriminatory 12-months-celibate deferral period. The “Science in Blood Donation Act” aims to place those policies in the dustbin of history.

“Every day, across the United States, donated blood marks the difference between life and death. There is no substitute. Yet our country turns away thousands of healthy and willing blood donors based solely on their gender identity and sexual orientation. This policy is based on fear, sigma, and prejudice, not science," said Demings in a press statement.. “Blood is never at higher demand than in an emergency. Orlando knows the pain of mass shootings, and discriminatory sexual orientation guidelines denied victims’ friends and families the opportunity to donate blood afterward."

Revising these outdated FDA guidelines strikes a particularly personal chord here in Orlando, where, in the wake of 2016's Pulse nightclub shooting, gay and queer men were turned away from blood donation sites, even in the middle of an emergency shortage of donated blood.

Locally, the Center's Dr. George A. Wallace praised the bill, saying, "As an executive director of one of the oldest LGBT community centers in the nation and the largest HIV testing site in central Florida, I have witnessed firsthand the current discriminatory laws in action. … I am delighted to support this bill presented by Representative Demings."

Demings and Quigley sent the bill to the U.S. Energy and Commerce Committee last week. There is no companion measure in the Senate as of this writing.

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