White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest said Tuesday that President Obama’a views on lifting the ban on blood donations from gay and bisexual men will be “guided by the science.”
Under questioning from the Washington Blade, Earnest made the remarks the same day the Food & Drug Administration issued draft guidance that would lift the lifetime ban on donations from gay and bisexual men, but replace it with a policy requiring them to remain abstinent for one year before they can donate.
“It’s my understanding, based on what I’ve heard about this, the FDA has not rendered a final judgment on this, so this is the subject of ongoing consideration both by scientists, but also by the public health professionals at the FDA that have a responsibility for ensuring that the American people and their blood supply is fine,” Earnest said. “Obviously, we’re going to be guided by the science when it comes to this.”
Asked by the Blade why Obama’s stated opposition to anti-LGBT discrimination wouldn’t naturally apply to blood donations, Earnest maintained the president has “a very strong record” on LGBT rights, but said other factors are a consideration.
“He also feels strongly about making sure that we have an effective system that manages the reserve blood supply of the country, and we’re mindful of that, and that’s why we have some of the best scientists in the world at the FDA that are looking at this issue and making sure that we can reach a policy that is in the best interest of the country,” Earnest said.
David Stacy, government affairs director for the Human Rights Campaign, maintained the policy on gay blood donations that best corresponds to science is an end altogether to the ban, which was instituted in 1983 at the height of the AIDS crisis.
“This policy prevents men from donating life-saving blood based solely on their sexual orientation rather than actual risk to the blood supply,” Stacy said. “It simply cannot be justified in light of current scientific research and updated blood screening technology. We are committed to working toward an eventual outcome that both minimizes risk to the blood supply and treats gay and bisexual men with the respect they deserve.”
Also on Tuesday, Earnest had no comment on legislation scheduled for a vote the same day in the Texas House, HB 4105, which seeks to defy an anticipated ruling from the Supreme Court in favor of gay nuptials by prohibiting the use of state and local funds to issue a marriage license to a same-sex couple.
“I’ve only seen some news coverage of this,” Earnest said. “I refrain from putting myself on the hook for every piece of legislation that is considered by a state legislature, but, obviously, this is among the things that the Supreme Court is considering now and will ultimately have a decision on hopefully later this summer.”
Asked by the Blade whether the legislation on its face sounds like bad policy, Earnest replied, “I wouldn’t draw any conclusion based on the way that it sounds at this point, but I think the president’s values when it comes to this question are very clearly well articulated.”