The passage of marriage equality in May was such a major—and quite frankly unexpected—triumph, that it’s easy to lose sight of the fact that we still have such a long way to go in securing complete freedom for the LGBT community. Archaic laws still exist across the country that are keeping us down, and perpetuating horrible stigmas. Take, for instance, the USDA and FDA’s 1983 regulation that says any man who has had sexual contact with another male since 1977 (!) is restricted from donating blood.
In short, there’s not one of us—no matter how healthy or well-meaning—who can donate to the nation’s blood supply to help save lives—all because of our sexual orientation. It’s an appalling, outdated rule—and a whole new reason to stay on our toes when it comes to fighting for our rights.
The conversation has already been started. In August of last year, 85 members of Congress—including Pennsylvania’s Allyson Schwartz and Matthew Cartwright—signed a letter urging the Department of Health and Human Services to rethink the policy. Those who signed believe that restrictions should be based on behavior and individual risk rather than sexual orientation. There’s also a White House petition—which you can sign here—that’s seeking to garner 100,000 signatures between now and July 30th. If that goal is reached, the Obama Administration will issue a statement that will reach folks across the country.
For a little extra kick in the pants—and for those looking to take a more proactive approach—a National Gay Blood Drive is taking place to bring attention to the ban. It asks gay and bisexual men to bring straight allies to a participating donor agency on July 11th. On that day, gay and bi men will fill out a message to the FDA. The allies will fill out a donor name tag—with the name of the gay or bi man who brought them along. In the end, the name tags and letters will be collected, counted and delivered to the FDA to signify how much gay and bi men could contribute to the nation’s blood supply.