Gay mayor fights for gay blood donors

The title of a petition penned by Mayor Evan Low of Campbell reads:

“FDA: Stop discriminating against me and other gay men who want to donate blood.”

The online petition strives to change the FDA’s 1983 ban on gay blood donors that stemmed from the U.S. AIDS epidemic in 1977.

The petition has already earned close to 23,000 signatures since its Aug. 9 launch on Change.org. Mayor Low writes in his petition:

“There was a time not too long ago where as mayor, I could officiate a wedding, but could not get married myself. … And most recently, I hosted a blood drive on city property, but was banned from donating blood myself.”

Low told the Merc that the latter experience was like hosting a party that you are not invited to.

The FDA, which sets national standards for blood donations, has barred gay male donors from giving blood unless their last male-on-male sexual encounter was before 1977, or in other words — before the AIDS epidemic.

In a statement on the FDA’s website, the organization defends their policy:

“FDA’s deferral policy is based on the documented increased risk of certain transfusion transmissible infections, such as HIV associated with male-to-male sex and is not based on any judgment concerning the donor’s sexual orientation.”

Although the FDA reconsidered the ban in 2010, the policy remains, pending the ongoing “targeted research studies that might support a safe alternative policy.”

The FDA points out that gay men are not the only people who are banned from donating blood.

Other restrictions include users of certain prescription drugs or those who traveled internationally to countries during times of disease outbreak.

With all the people barred from donating blood, Red Cross communications manager Jared Schultzman said:

“That’s all the more reason for people who are eligible to donate, [do so].”

As of Sunday morning, Low’s petition needs 2,084 more signatures to reach its goal of 25,000.

The support of Low’s petition comes during a season of success for LGBT rights. Earlier this summer, the Defense of Marriage Act and Prop 8 were ruled unconstitutional, ushering in same-sex marriages throughout California. In 2011, the military’s long-standing “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy was also repealed.