Blood Oath

Can you hear the Christian right screaming now?

The federal government is on the brink of lifting restrictions put in place more than three decades ago when regulators, alarmed by the spread of the virus that causes AIDS, barred men who had sex with other men from donating blood.

A Food and Drug Administration advisory panel will begin a two-day meeting on the issue Tuesday, amid growing calls from medical groups, gay rights activists and lawmakers to jettison the ban as outdated and discriminatory.

An advisory group for the Department of Health and Human Services recently recommended, for the first time, that the ban be replaced with a 12-month deferral period, which would prohibit male potential donors who have had same-sex contact over the previous year from giving blood. The FDA, which regulates blood donations, will consider that recommendation as part of its decision.

This ban was always stupid, always immoral, always based on nothing more than raw Christian fundamentalism and brutal Reagan-era homophobia. It should be tossed into the dustbin of history as soon as possible.

As the New York Times editorial page recently observed:

The F.D.A.’s policy is illogical on several counts. For one, it groups all gay men into one excluded category. Why should a married gay man who always uses condoms be treated the same as a single gay man who never uses them? Another group under a lifetime ban is people who have accepted money or drugs in exchange for sex since 1977, which suggests that the agency thinks gay sex carries the same health risks as prostitution. Meanwhile, a man or woman who has had heterosexual sex with an intravenous drug user, or with someone who has tested positive for H.I.V., is deferred for only a year…

The F.D.A.’s policy is out of step with medical research. It stigmatizes gay men and unnecessarily limits the pool of possible blood donors. The agency could make a change without compromising the blood supply.

The fundamentalists will whine like the morons they are. Let them whine. Let them stamp their feet and complain. They are wrong, dead wrong, and deserve as much mockery and ridicule as rational people can provide.

It is an outrage that gay and bisexual men were ever banned from donating blood. The “logic” behind the ban was profoundly illogical, nothing more than gay-bashing as public policy. Not only should this policy be thrown out, but gay and bisexual men should also receive a formal apology from the United States government for the original implementation of this nonsensical idea, which treated gay and bisexual men as fifth-class citizens. Thank goodness this injustice may be coming to an end.

D.R. Tucker

D. R. Tucker is a Massachusetts-based journalist who has served as the weekend contributor for the Washington Monthly since May 2014. He has also written for the Huffington Post, the Washington Spectator, the Metrowest Daily News, investigative journalist Brad Friedman's Brad Blog and environmental journalist Peter Sinclair's Climate Crocks.