FDA opens door to ending gay blood donation ban
It was another rough night for LGBT candidates in Georgia on July 26 as both in the running lost, with all six of statewide LGBT advocacy organization Georgia Equality’s endorsed candidates coming up short as well.
Valerie Vie, a lesbian family law attorney, garnered 37 percent of the vote to attorney William Boddie Jr.’s 63 percent in the race in House District 62, which includes portions of College Park, Douglasville, East Point, and portions of Fulton and DeKalb counties.
Vie emerged from a crowded field in the May 24 primary that included openly gay community activist and flight attendant Rafer Johnson and had hoped to snag a coveted seat on the House Judiciary Committee with a win—there is no Republican opposition in November so a win would have made her the fourth openly LGBT lawmaker in the state legislature. But Boddie came out on top, no doubt due in part to a three-toone fundraising margin. Vie congratulated Boddie on the win via her Facebook page.
The other race with an openly LGBT candidate was for Superior Court judge in Fulton County. Openly gay family law attorney, Fulton County magistrate and hearing officer Gary Alembik lost to Eric Dunaway by a 12 point margin. If elected, Alembik would have been the second openly LGBT Superior Court judge in Fulton County (joining Jane Barwick) and the first openly gay male. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration signaled on July 26 that it is reevaluating its policy on blood donations by gay and bisexual men, less than a year after changing its former policy and less than two months since the Orlando shooting brought renewed scrutiny about the issue. The current policy prohibits donations from any men who have had sex with another man in the previous year.
The news came in the form of a notice posted to the Federal Register, which is basically a clearinghouse for the daily goings-on of the U.S. federal government. The notice said that the FDA is establishing a public docket for comment about its current blood donation policy.
Activists have long pushed for a change to a policy based on individual risk factors such as intravenous drug use or unprotected sex instead of singling out gay and bisexual men. Last December, the FDA changed the policy from one that essentially was a lifetime blood donation ban for gay and bisexual men to the current one-year deferral policy.
The issue hit the national radar again after last month’s shooting at the LGBT Orlando club Pulse that left 49 dead. Blood banks were filled with people wanting to donate, but due to the FDA policy, gay and bisexual men weren’t allowed to help their own community.
Eight days after the shooting, 114 members of Congress and 24 members of the U.S. Senate sent letters to the FDA calling the current policy discriminatory against gay and bisexual men and urging them to base their guidelines on individual risk factors instead of targeting a specific set of people.