Congressmen Send Letter to Sebelius Backing Move to Let 'Low-Risk' Homosexuals Donate Blood

By Penny Starr | June 14, 2012 | 12:02pm EDT

(AP Photo)

( – Sen. John Kerry (D-Mass.) and Rep. Mike Quigley (D-Ill.) sent a letter signed by 62 other Democrats to Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius, supporting her agency's review of the policy that bans homosexual and bisexual men from donating blood.

The Democrats say the ban is “outdated,” and they called the HHS pilot study an important step in "assessing the feasibility of allowing healthy gay and bisexual men to donate blood while maintaining the safety of our blood supply."

“Patients across the country desperately need life-saving blood transfusions, yet perfectly healthy would-be donors are turned away based solely on sexual orientation,” Quigley said.

“Equality for the LGBT community is closer than ever but outdated and discriminatory policies like this must evolve to match advancements in science and technology.”

“We’ve been working on this a long time, and I applaud Secretary Sebelius for taking this important step toward ending the lifetime ban on gay men donating blood, and instead relying on the science of today, not the myths of twenty years ago,” Kerry said. “I’m confident that the findings of these new studies will pave the way to get this policy off the books.

The lawmakers said the study will at least provide an "informed evaluation" of what it will take to end the ban on homosexuals donating blood. Currently, any man who has had sex with another man since 1977 is banned for life from donating blood.

The HHS pilot study will look at alternative criteria for deferring donations from men who have sex with men.

In their letter, Kerry and Quigley asked HHS to explore ways of distinguishing "high-risk" homosexuals from "low-risk" homosexuals.

"For instance, the donor questionnaire could collect information on whether or not the donor is in a monogamous relationship or if the donor engages in effective preventive measures," the wrote. "In this way the donor questionnaire could assess the risk level of all potential donors, regardless of sexual orientation."

They also urged HHS to "be vigilant" in avoiding any "real or perceived unwarranted discriminatory treatment" of homosexuals in the process of conducting the pilot study.

This is the second letter Kerry and Quigley have sent to Sebelius urging a policy change on homosexual blood donors. The first was sent in June 2010.

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