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Gay Men Can Donate Organs and Blood … Only If Abstinent

Politicians and activists call on the Department of Health and Human Services to update discriminatory policies that prevent gay men from donating organs and blood because of their orientation.

Photo by Shutterstock

By Julissa Catalan


Photo by Shutterstock

More than 60 politicians and LGBT advocates are fighting to revise a very dated federal regulation that disqualifies gay men from donating organs and blood simply because of their orientation.

According to Ian Thompson, a Legislative Representative at the ACLU who focuses on LGBT rights, donating blood or tissue may not be a "constitutional right," but the federal government should not be able to discriminate against a prospective donor based on their orientation.

"In other words, gay and bisexual men cannot constitutionally be singled out for differential treatment solely because of their sexual relationships," Thompson told TakePart. "Eligibility standards must reflect current scientific knowledge and must treat like risks alike."

Currently, gay men face severe restrictions when it comes to donating organs, tissue or blood.

They are allowed to donate certain organs after HIV testing, but the transplant program is notified that the organ comes from a deceased man who had sex with other men in the past year.

They are allowed to donate tissue only if they have not had sex with other men for five years.

They are never allowed to donate blood.

In contrast, a straight man who admits to having sex with a prostitute or knowingly had sex with an HIV-positive woman only has to wait one year before being allowed to donate blood.

"Clearly that is not treating like risk alike," said Thompson.

This policy was first put in place in the 1980s, at the height of the AIDS crisis. More than 30 years later, huge strides have been made in science and medicine, and it is common knowledge that anyone who has unprotected sex is at risk, not just gay men.

Last week, more than 60 U.S. senators and representatives sent a letter to the Secretary of Health and Human Services saying the donation policies contained "inherent unfairness and inconsistency." The letter stated that the current policies "perpetuate inaccurate stereotypes" and "promote discrimination" while not adequately representing the advances made in science and HIV detection.

The legislators have requested a response to their letter within 30 days.

They are also pushing for a written update on what the department has done to assess donation regulations, as well as an estimate of when possible policy changes will be announced publicly and take effect.

"You have an administration in place that's committed to moving LGBT equality forward, and they've also done a lot in the area of HIV/AIDS," Thompson says.

According to the Organ Procurement and Transplantation Network, there are more than 123,000 people who are on the national waiting list for lifesaving organs. Most of these individuals are waiting for kidneys, with livers, hearts and lungs also high on the list.

In addition, more than 1 million tissue transplants are performed every year, while more than 41,000 blood transfusions are needed every day.

Kevin Hart Steps Down from Hosting Oscars

The Academy gave Hart the ultimatum to apologize or step down over past homophobic tweets. But the Academy has its own issues it needs to face.

REUTERS

Comedian Kevin Hart tweeted on Tuesday that being selected to host the 2019 Oscars was the "opportunity of a lifetime." On Friday, Hart said that he was stepping down over past anti-gay tweets.

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Trial Begins for Cops Charged With Covering Up Laquan McDonald's Death

They are the first Chicago officers to face criminal "code of silence" charges.

Screenshot from ABC 7 Chicago

The trial of former Detective David March and former Officers Joseph Walsh and Thomas Gaffney of the Chicago Police Department begins today. The men are charged with conspiracy, obstruction of justice and misconduct in the shooting death of 17-year-old Laquan McDonald.

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Jemel Roberson's killer, a Midloathian officer, has not been named for over two weeks, and the civil rights attorney for the family says it's hiding evidence.

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Transgender People Reject Bigoted Policy​, Say They #WontBeErased​

The Trump administration proposes that government agencies should define sex as "a person's status as male or female based on immutable biological traits identifiable by or before birth."

REUTERS

#WontBeErased hashtag erupted hours after The New York Times reported the Trump administration's push via a memo for a new legal definition of gender, which would essentially eradicate the estimated 1.4 million Americans who identify as a different gender than the one assigned assigned at birth.

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Black Women Have Higher Rates of Life-Threatening Birth Complications

New study shows women of color have a 70 percent higher rate of major birth problems, even when they suffer the same health ailments as white women.

REUTERS

The University of Michigan released a study that shows women of color have higher rates of major birth problems. Many required emergency treatment such as blood transfusions — a staggering three-quarters of cases —for women suffering a serious hemorrhage.

The study of 40,873 women between 2012-2015 revealed Black women had 70 percent higher rate of severe birth-related health issues than white women, and that a disparity existed in terms of needing life-saving treatment—50.5 Black mothers vs. 40.9 white mothers per 10,000.

Black women are three to four times as likely to die from pregnancy-related causes as their white counterparts, according to the C.D.C.

"Celebrities like Serena Williams who have shared their birth-related emergency stories publicly have drawn the national spotlight to the urgent need to reduce racial and ethnic disparities in care for women around the time of delivery. To drive and target those changes, we need specific data like these," said Lindsay Admon, M.D., M.Sc., the study's lead author.

Williams, who has a history of blood clots, began feeling short of breath in the hospital the day after her daughter Alexis Olympia was born. A nurse said her pain medication was likely confusing her, but Williams was persistent and it saved her life.

"Situations like these are often considered near misses, and looking at them allows us to get a better picture of who the high-risk women really are," said Admon, an obstetrician at Michigan Medicine's Von Voigtlander Women's Hospital, and a member of the U-M Institute for Healthcare Policy and Innovation.

Maternal Morbidity: Study reveals disparities by race and ethnicity.

All women who had chronic health conditions like asthma, diabetes, hypertension, depression or substance use issues before giving birth had a higher risk for the continuation of those problems post-child birth, but women of color with two or more conditions were two to three times more likely to have major birth problems than white women.

White women had higher rates of depression and substance use issues than any other group, but the risk for birth problems was lower than women of color with the same health issues.

While Medicaid pays for almost two-thirds of all births among women of color, access to care is another issue that affects births and post birth health. Medicaid pays for more than a third of births of white and Asian women.

Prior to the Affordable Care Act (ACA), Blacks and Latinos were more likely than whites to face barriers in access to health care.

Between 2013 and 2015, disparities with whites narrowed for Blacks and Latinos in states that expanded Medicaid under the ACA, including the percentage of uninsured working-age adults, the percentage who skipped care because of costs, and the percentage who lacked a regular care provider.

Medicaid pays for most procedures for women of color.

TWITTER

Republican precinct committeeman Michael Kalny of Shawnee sent a Facebook message about Democratic congressional candidate Sharice Davids, who is running against incumbent Republican U.S. Rep Kevin Yoder for the 3rd congressional district seat in Kansas.

"The REAL REPUBLICANS will remember what the scum DEMONRATS tried to do to Kavanaugh in November. Your radical socialist kick boxing lesbian Indian will be sent back packing to the reservation."

Emily's List posted on Twitter in response: "This racist, homophobic language is totally unacceptable. We're proud to stand with her & to help elect her." They've since promoted her, and another Native American candidate Deb Haaland of New Mexico.

Davids responded that the message "doesn't represent Kansas values, and it doesn't represent the values of the Republicans we know, many who support this campaign."

On Wednesday, Kalny resigned. "He reflected an apologetic attitude and didn't want to bring negative attention on the party or candidates running in this area," Johnson County Republican Party Chairman Mike Jones said.

No word on an official apology from Kalny to Davids yet. The hateful message was sent to Anne Pritchett, president of the Johnson County Democratic Women's north chapter, who had posted "hostile" messages on candidate Yoder's page in this fiery election race.

Davids, a LGBT lawyer and amateur mixed-martial arts fighter, could become the first ever openly gay member of the Kansas Congressional delegation, if she wins, as well as the first female Native American lawmaker in Washington.

She is a member of the Wisconsin-based Ho-Chunk Nation ("People of the Big Voice"), which had historically been forcibly separated and relocated out of Wisconsin several times by the U.S. government.

Kalny, when questioned about his message by local media, said he needed to talk to his attorney and hung up the phone.

He also resigned from his position on the board of directors for the Kansas City Barbecue Society citing "personal reasons."

C.J. Grover, a spokesman for Yoder, denounced Kalny's comments:

"Kevin (Yoder) doesn't believe this type of rhetoric is appropriate at all. It's unacceptable," Grover said. "These kind of nasty personal attacks are all too prevalent in politics these days, and it needs to stop."

Davids has shown up in pre-election polls as leading Yoder by as much as 8 percent. She also faces Chris Clemmons, a libertarian candidate, on Nov. 6. Voter registration ends on Oct. 17, less than one week away.

Update: Officer's Story of S​hooting Botham Jean Contradicts Witnesses

Witnesses say they heard the officer say, "Let me in. Let me in."

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Botham "Bo" Jean was killed around 10 p.m. on Thursday night by Amber Guyger, a four-year veteran of the Dallas police department, who just ended her shift and returned to her apartment complex.

The 911 call said she cried after shooting Jean in the chest, and apologized saying she thought it was her apartment. Her arrest warrant says that Guyger reports drawing her gun when she saw a figure in the dark apartment, giving verbal commands—which were ignored—and then firing two shots.

But witnesses, according to the family lawyers, say that they heard sounds and talking that contradict that report.

"They heard knocking down the hallway followed by a woman's voice that they believe to be officer Guyger saying, 'Let me in. Let me in,'" attorney Lee Merritt said.

After the gunshots, a man's voice was heard.

"What we believe to be the last words of Botham Jean which was 'Oh my god, why did you do that?'" Merritt said.

There were two witnesses, Caitlyn Simpson and Yasmine Hernandez, that heard a lot of noise on the fourth floor that night, including 'police talk', like: "Open up!"

There was also a video taken by witnesses of Jean being rolled out on a stretcher, with EMS performing chest compressions on him.

Dallas County District Attorney Faith Johnson is collecting all of the evidence before presenting to a grand jury, which could decide to up the charges to murder.

"We're going to unravel what we need to unravel, unturn what we need to unturn, and present a full case to the grand jury of Dallas County," Johnson said.

Protests were held Monday night outside the police department as questions still remain:

What were the results of the blood test for Guyger, and why did police respond from 30 miles away, rather than Dallas police headquarters that was two blocks away?

The family's lawyers are also still asking why Guyger was allowed to leave the scene without handcuffs and not be arrested for three days. "You or I would be arrested if we went to the wrong apartment and blow a hole in a person's chest, killing them," said Benjamin Crump.

The officer was arrested Sunday, and released on $300,000 bail as of Monday. She is on paid administrative leave.

Botham Jean's funeral is on Thursday.

Related Story: Dallas Police Department's Attempt to Demonize Murder Victim, Botham Jean, is Disgusting

Related Story: Update: Botham Jean Celebrated Amid the Urging of Officer Guyger to Come Clean

Related story: White Police Officer Charged With Manslaughter for Shooting Black Man in His Own Apartment

"Let me in": Witnesses dispute cop account of Botham Jean shooting, attorney says

White Police Officer Charged With Manslaughter for Shooting Black Man in His Own Apartment

Dallas family protested the officer being free and on leave for three days after the killing.

SCREENSHOT FROM "CBS THIS MORNING" BROADCAST

Dallas police officer Amber Guyger, who is white, fatally shot a 26-year-old Black man, Botham Jean, in his own apartment on Thursday, claiming she entered what she thought was her own home.

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