Red Cross to Continue Blood Drives at UVM Despite Ban on Blood Donations From Gay Men

Red Cross to Continue Blood Drives at UVM Despite Ban on Blood Donations From Gay Men 

BURLINGTON, Vt.

      The American Red Cross can continue holding blood drives at the University of Vermont despite a complaint that a ban on sexually active gay men giving blood violates the school’s nondiscrimination policy, campus officials have ruled.

      “Donating blood is an individual choice and action — not rising to the definition of protected activity in the case of discrimination or equal protection,” Michael Gower, the university’s vice president for administration, wrote in a Jan. 17 letter detailing the school’s position.

      Kathryn Friedman, head of the school’s affirmative action office, had recommended that the university curtail Red Cross blood drives. That came after a complaint by a former student that the school condoned discrimination against gay men by allowing the Red Cross on campus.

      The debate parallels a similar move by some campuses, including Vermont Law School, to ban military recruiters because of complaints that the military’s “don’t ask-don’t tell” policy, which requires gay service members to keep their sexual orientation secret, is discriminatory.

      Congress passed a law allowing the federal government to deny funding to campuses that ban the recruiters; arguments on whether that law is constitutional were heard by the U.S. Supreme Court in early December.

      National Red Cross officials have said that the Food and Drug Administration won’t allow it to accept blood from sexually active gay men, for fear it could be tainted with HIV, the virus that causes AIDS. The FDA last considered whether to revise its policy in 2000, when a panel of FDA specialists voted 7-6 to maintain the ban.

      Gower said in his letter that banning the campus blood drives would not serve the public.

      “Given the chronic insufficiency of the blood supply locally … to cut off a regular and reliable ‘supply’ from our students would be an unacceptable position for the university to take,” he wrote. “I see the need to take steps to encourage more donations, not impose additional barriers.”

— Associated Press



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