Yesterday, June 14, was World Blood Donor Day. In a statement, the World Health Organization called blood donation a heroic and life-saving act; the American Red Cross characterized donors as kind and generous people who “can make a difference in the lives of many.”
But many LGBT activists and organizations used World Blood Donor Day to highlight the fact that in most of the world, men who’ve had sex with another man even once since 1977 are banned from donating blood for life. They pointed out that blanket bans discriminate against gay and bisexual men, are no longer scientifically or medically necessary, and reinforce the pernicious and homophobic stereotype that all gay and bisexual men engage in high-risk sexual activities. Even among those who engage in such activity, an unfair double standard exists: straight people who have high-risk sex can donate blood freely, while gay and bisexual men cannot. These bans operate on the basis of fear rather than facts, and ignore the scores of gay and bisexual men currently living in committed, monogamous relationships (and in some places, we can even marry now!).
With shortages at blood banks around the country reaching crisis levels, calls for change are mounting. And last month in Vermont, for the first time in our nation’s history, a state legislative body passed a resolution urging the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services to reconsider its lifetime ban on blood donations from gay and bisexual men.
The resolution, which passed the Vermont House of Representatives on May 1 by an overwhelming vote of 129-2, was sponsored by Rep. Matt Trieber. The first-term, openly gay legislator shepherded his resolution through the House Human Services Committee, which sent it to the full legislature by a unanimous and bipartisan 11-0 vote. Trieber, 32, was appointed by Governor Peter Shumlin in January 2011 to fill a vacant seat; he will campaign for his seat for the first time this fall.
Here’s hoping that Rep. Trieber’s trailblazing example will inspire equality-minded legislators in other states to take similar steps. The sooner we can end the irrational and discriminatory ban on gay and bisexual male blood, the better.
The full text of Vermont House Resolution 21 can be viewed here.