June 17, 2010 | by Chris Johnson
National news in brief

Gay blood donor ban goes unchanged

An advisory committee examining whether to lift the ban preventing gay and bisexual men from donating blood has voted against changing the policy.

On June 11, the Advisory Committee on Blood Safety & Availability, which provides recommendations to the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services on blood products and safety, voted 9-6 against recommending to allow gay and bisexual men to donate blood. The committee cited insufficient scientific data to support a change.

Still, the committee acknowledged in a 14-0 vote that the current policy is imperfect and recommended additional research to support a policy that would allow low-risk gay and bisexual men to donate.

The committee reached its conclusion after hearing two days of testimony on whether testing proceedings and societal changes have advanced enough to permit for a change in policy.

The FDA instituted the blood donor ban in 1983 in response to the AIDS crisis. The policy prohibits any man who’s had sex even once with another man since 1977 from donating blood. At the time, the policy was deemed necessary because gay and bisexual men have a higher rate of HIV/AIDS infection.

LGBT civil rights supporters have been seeking to overturn the ban on the grounds that it unfairly targets gay and bisexual men — and that testing procedures for HIV/AIDS have improved significantly since 1983.

The committee’s recommendations are expected to go to Assistant Secretary for Health Howard Koh.

Rea Carey, executive director of the National Gay & Lesbian Task Force, criticized the advisory committee for its decision.

“This decision is outrageous, irresponsible and archaic,” she said in a statement. “We expect more out of this advisory committee and this administration than to uphold an unnecessarily discriminatory policy from another era.”

Mormon Church fined for late Prop 8 reports

The Church of Latter-day Saints has agreed to pay a proposed fine of about $5,500 for late reporting of in-kind contributions in the 2008 campaign over Proposition 8 in California, according to the Utah-based Deseret News.

California’s Fair Political Practices Commission, which enforces the state’s campaign finance rules, reportedly identified 13 instances of non-monetary contributions totaling $39,628 that the Mormon Church failed to report on a timely basis.

The Church has been considered among the leading forces in the campaign in favor of Proposition 8, which ended same-sex marriage in California in 2008. But the Church last year said its total contributions to “Yes on 8” totaled $189,904, which is less than 1 percent of the $43.3 million raised by Prop 8 proponents, according to the Deseret News.

Opponents of Prop 8 in California have said they believe the Mormon Church’s support for the initiative is evident in the individual contributions that church members made to the “Yes on 8” campaign.

In a statement, Joe Solmonese, president of the Human Rights Campaign, said the fine “may seem inconsequential,” but sheds light on the Mormon Church’s activities in the Prop 8 campaign.

Cambridge mayor comes out at Pride event

The mayor of Cambridge, Mass., came out as gay this week, making him the city’s third consecutive openly gay mayor. Mayor David Maher, who was elected by the city council in February, came out while speaking to the city’s annual Pride brunch, according to a report in the Cambridge Chronicle.

In his remarks, Maher acknowledged the city’s last two mayors, Ken Reeves and Denise E. Simmons, both of whom are gay. “In the early 1990s my city council colleague Ken Reeves came out as the first openly gay mayor of Cambridge – since that time Denise Simmons and I have both had the privilege and honor of serving as mayor,” Maher said, according to the Cambridge Chronicle.

Reeves was the first African-American openly gay man to serve as a mayor in the United States, and Simmons was the first out lesbian African-American mayor.

Chris Johnson is Chief Political & White House Reporter for the Washington Blade. Johnson attends the daily White House press briefings and is a member of the White House Correspondents' Association. Follow Chris

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