U.S. Congresswoman Val Demings is introducing a bill that lifts the ban on gays, lesbians, bisexuals and transgender people from donating blood.
The Science in Blood Donation Act, introduced by Demings (FL-10) and Representative Mike Quigley (IL-5), calls on the Food & Drug Administration to revise outdated guidance.
To reduce the risk of HIV transmission by blood and blood products, the Demings/Quigley bill asks for a shift in focus on individual assessments of donors and modern testing capabilities instead of relying on “archaic rules and ideologies” around sexual orientation and gender identity.
Demings, the former Orlando Police Chief, said the needed revisions “strikes a particularly personal chord here in Orlando.” Orlando, Demings said, knows the pain and discrimination from these policies.
In 2016, following the Pulse Nightclub massacre, LGBT people were turned away from donating their blood plasma. Demings said her bill would “end the long-standing discrimination against LGBTQ+ blood donors.”
In August, Florida Senator-elect Shevrin Jones was turned away from donating plasma at the OneBlood donation center in Hollywood.
“Saving a life shouldn’t be prevented because of who you love,” Jones tweeted. “The @US_FDA should look at this antiquated policy and do away with it.”
Current FDA policy allows for a three-month deferral period on blood donations by men who have sex with men (MSM). In 1985, amid the global AIDS pandemic, the FDA issued a broad ban on blood donations by MSM.
Jones is scheduled to moderate a panel Saturday for the Florida LGBTQ+ Democratic Caucus. The theme of this year’s summer conference is “It’s In Your Hands.” Jones, on the cusp of becoming Florida’s first Black gay Senator, spoke with SFGN this week about the panel.
“This year has taught me how to be a better leader,” Jones said. “It’s taught me how to lead from a room and to build coalitions.”
On Jones’s panel are Representative-elect Michele Rayner and Lake Worth Commissioner Omari Hardy. Rayner, a civil rights attorney from House District 70, is the first queer Black woman elected to the state legislature.
Jones said he “feels great” and is “trying to bypass all the hatred and bigotry” from a hard-fought primary victory in Senate District 35.
Joe Biden, Jones said, is the “only saving grace we have now to deal with what’s going on in our country and the economic collapse that we’re seeing.”
On Wednesday, Jones thanked Demings for her advocacy and bold leadership.
“Thank you for fighting to eliminate this antiquated rule set by @US_FDA, which is nothing but discrimination against the LGBTQ community,” Jones tweeted.