June 10, 2010 at 7:28 pm EDT | by Lou Chibbaro Jr.
D.C. Council tackles immigration, blood ban

The D.C. City Council on June 1 voted unanimously to approve a “sense of the Council” resolution supporting a bill in Congress that would provide spouse-related immigration rights to foreign-born same-sex partners of American citizens.

In a separate unanimous vote, the Council also approved a “sense of the Council” resolution asking the U.S. Food & Drug Administration to end its 28-year-old policy banning blood donations by any man who has had sex with another man.

Council member David Catania (I-At Large), who’s gay, introduced both resolutions. All 12 of Catania’s colleagues on the Council signed on as co-introducers to the immigration resolution, which endorses the Uniting American Families Act, a bill pending in Congress.

“The District of Columbia celebrates and respects all immigrant groups and all families, including those of same-sex gay and lesbian partners,” says the immigration resolution. “Current U.S. immigration law discriminates against a U.S. citizen or lawful permanent resident and his or her foreign-born partner of the same sex by not allowing the sponsorship of a foreign partner for immigration benefits, although opposite-sex couples would have the right do so.

“It is the sense of the Council that the passage of the Uniting American Families Act or other law that will end discrimination for bi-national same-sex partners under the immigration laws and will allow gay and lesbian residents of the District of Columbia fair and equal access to immigration benefits through their permanent partnerships will have a significant positive impact on the District of Columbia and should be enacted.”

The second resolution calls on the Food & Drug Administration to use “science-based” eligibility criteria to determine when gay men should be eligible to donate blood.

“In 1982, when there were no HIV tests or HIV treatments, and little was known about HIV and AIDS, the FDA imposed a lifetime deferment, or permanent ban, on blood donation by any man who has had sex with another man at any time since 1977,” says the resolution.

It says the permanent ban on nearly all gay men from donating blood unnecessarily reduces the U.S. supply of blood.

“It is the sense of the Council of the District of Columbia that the United States Food & Drug Administration should reverse the lifetime deferment of blood donations by men who have sex with men since 1977 in favor of a policy that protects the safety and integrity of the blood supply that is based on an up-to-date scientific criteria,” says the resolution.

Lou Chibbaro Jr. has reported on the LGBT civil rights movement and the LGBT community for more than 30 years, beginning as a freelance writer and later as a staff reporter and currently as Senior News Reporter for the Washington Blade. He has chronicled LGBT-related developments as they have touched on a wide range of social, religious, and governmental institutions, including the White House, Congress, the U.S. Supreme Court, the military, local and national law enforcement agencies and the Catholic Church. Chibbaro has reported on LGBT issues and LGBT participation in local and national elections since 1976. He has covered the AIDS epidemic since it first surfaced in the early 1980s. Follow Lou

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