Laieski vs. FDA

Caleb Laieski may be young, tall and lanky, but he’s a fighter.

At his Arizona high school, anti-gay bullying was so bad that he had to drop out and complete his education in a GED program. But the intense persecution he suffered had a sort of purifying effect – he channeled the bigotry against him into action. As he put it, he refused to “be another statistic.” In 2011 he advocated and lobbied for the Student Non-Discrimination Act in The Grand Canyon State and served as a diversity liaison in the Phoenix, Arizona mayor’s office. He also caught the attention of members of Congress and the White House and tried to take non-discrimination act to Capitol Hill.

Now he’s taking on the FDA. The 19-year-old LGBT activist, and good friend of mine, sued the FDA earlier this month for its “unnecessary” and “discriminatory” policy of banning MSM (men who have sex with men) blood donors from donating.

In 1985, the FDA began rejected blood donations from gay and bisexual men because they were at “increased risk for HIV, hepatitis B and certain other infections that can be transmitted by transfusion.” The AIDS epidemic was one of the defining tragedies of the 1980s. Thousands of healthy gay and bisexual men were suddenly becoming dangerously ill and dying from what some were calling the “gay cancer.” This new and terrifying virus was called AIDS and the FDA knew little about it, other than the fact that it was transmitted through the blood and sexual intercourse. Understandably, the administration banned MSM donors from donating to prevent accidental infections of blood transfusion patients.

Since then, our understanding medical science has exponentially increased. For one, the FDA scrutinizes and tests all blood donations it receives for viruses and cancers. Samples that don’t pass the tests are destroyed. People receiving blood transfusions are in very good and capable hands. But what has been one of the biggest breakthroughs in medicine has been the demotion of HIV/AIDS from a life-ravaging Grim Reaper to a treatable, chronic condition. The miraculous Truvada, for example, essentially prevents transmission.

And yet the blood ban is still on the books. Even though experts and the American Medical Association have denounced the lifetime ban as an unnecessary, bigoted policy, the FDA still turns away possibly millions of donors because of their sexual orientation. The American Red Cross has estimated that nearly two million more people could be saved if the ban were to be eliminated and that as many as three people can be helped from a single donation.

Laieski’s lawsuit uses the precedents set in famous historical cases, including Lawrence v. Texas (2003), Loving v. Virginia (1967), and United States v. Windsor (2013) to argue that turning away and singling out a group of people because of their sexual orientation is unconstitutional. Medical privacy is also cited; only homosexuals are asked to disclose if they’ve had multiple partners.

Laieski has a compelling case, to say the least. The FDA’s ban is discriminatory and not even needed to begin with. Asking gay and bisexual men how many people they’ve slept with may have been an uncomfortable precaution in the ’80s, but it’s 2014. HIV/AIDS doesn’t just effect millions of straight, gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people – it’s a treatable condition that can be managed and prevented.

Is the FDA just nostalgic for the Reagan years or does it see all LGBT people as diseased and unworthy of blood donation? We will soon find out. With marriage equality sweeping the nation and renewed efforts to pass the Employment N0n-Discrmination Act (ENDA), I can’t think of a better time for the FDA to join the rest of the country in the 21st century than now.

Caleb Laieski

Caleb Laieski

 

Classic Arguments for Discrimination Showcased in Video

These days, viral videos of anti-gay, backwards ministers and fringe-idea leaders are somewhat commonplace. “Another video of a minister calling for the criminalization of homosexuality? Another example of bigotry and ignorance from a fundamentalist Southern church? *YAWN* What else is new?”

However, one video in particular has created quite the buzz around the World Wide Web recently.

 

Watch it, and be sure to see it through to the end:

 

 

 

**SPOILER ALERT**

 

 

 

Quote from the video:

“I worry about the future of our city. Any accurate reading of the Bible should make it clear that gay rights goes against the plain truth of the Word of God.

“As one preacher warns:

‘Man, in overstepping the boundary lines God has drawn by making special rights for gays and lesbians, has taken another step in the direction of inviting the judgment of God upon our land.

‘This step of gay rights is but another stepping stone toward the immorality and lawlessness that will be characteristic of the last days.

‘This ordinance represents a denial of all that we believe in and no one should force it on us.

‘It’s not that we don’t care about homosexuals but that our rights will be taken away, and un-Christian views will be forced on us and our children, for we would be forced to go against our personal morals.

‘Outside government agents are endeavoring to disturb God’s established order. It is not in line with the Bible. Do not let people lead you astray.

‘The liberals leading this movement do not believe the Bible any longer, but every good, substantial, Bible-believing, intelligent, Orthodox Christian can read the word of God and know what is happening is not of God.

‘When you run into conflict with God’s established order, you have trouble. You do not produce harmony. You produce destruction and trouble and our city is in the greatest danger that it has ever been in in its history. The reason is that we have gotten away from the Bible of our forefathers. You see, the right of segregation…,’

“I’m sorry, hold on.

 ‘The right of segregation is clearly established by the holy scriptures, both by precept and example.’

“I’m sorry, I’ve brought the wrong notes with me this evening…I’ve borrowed my argument from the wrong century. It turns out what I’ve been reading to you this whole time are direct quotes from White preachers from the 1950s and the 1960s, all in support of racial segregation.

“All I have done is simply take out the phrase ‘racial integration’ and substituted it with the phrase ‘gay rights.’

“I guess the arguments I’ve been hearing around Springfield lately sounded so similar to these that I got them confused. I hope that you will not make the same mistake. I hope you will stand on the right side of history. Thank you.

My Two Cents On New York’s Legalization Of Marriage Equality

On Friday, June 24, 2011, New York joined five other U.S. states by legalizing same-sex marriage. The bill passed in both the Assembly and Senate and was immediately signed into law by Gov. Andrew Cuomo. Equality won in New York. However, gay couples in 44 other states are still treated as second-class citizens.

Massachusetts, Connecticut, Iowa, Vermont, New Hampshire, Washington D.C. and now New York are the only areas of the country where gay couples are seen as equal in the eyes of the law. Civil unions (rights nearly identical – but not equal to – marriage) are legal in five U.S. states, including New Jersey, Illinois, Hawaii, Delaware and Rhode Island. Domestic Partnerships (rights very similar to – but definitely not equal to – marriage) are legal in eight U.S. states, including California (where they are essentially civil unions), Colorado, Maine, Maryland, Nevada, Oregon, Washington and Wisconsin. A total of 30 states have discrimination etched into their constitutions…despite the 14th Amendment.

Times are changing. For the first time in U.S. history, a majority of Americans support same-sex marriage, according to a Gallup poll released earlier this year. Gallup found that 53 percent of Americans support same-sex marriage, including a whopping 70 percent of young people (18-34).

Here in California, Prop 8 is most likely on its deathbed. The Ninth Circuit Court is continuing to review Judge Walker’s monumental 2010 decision that overturned Prop 8. I predict his decision will be upheld (thanks to his brilliant review) and that same-sex marriage will once again be legal in The Golden State before 2012. If not, gay activists and supporters have vowed to push for a ballot initiative in the 2012 election that would overturn Prop 8 and legalize same-sex marriage (what a sad statement on the justice system in this country if it comes to that…). If public opinion and changing attitudes are any indication, it would have no trouble passing.

When will the federal government of the United States treat all of its citizens equally? It is the 21st century and our knowledge of what it means to be human has progressed and evolved. Love transcends gender. Most people see their gay friends and family as deserving of all the rights they receive. 10 nations around the world have passed marriage equality. Isn’t the United States supposed to be a beacon of liberty and an example for the rest of the world to follow? One can only hope that the United States legal system doesn’t continue to drag its feet, trampling over the rights of an entire group of people.

A Manhattan crowd reacts to the passage of marriage equality in New York. Photo credit: Associated Press 2011

Walker, Legal Ranger

Federal Judge Vaughn Walker – who has the distinction of being the judge to make the monumental and historic decision that overturned California’s Proposition 8 – wrote a well-thought out and articulated analysis explaining why not allowing two people of the same sex to legally marry is unconstitutional and regressive.

From the anthropological and evolutionary roots of marriage to the discriminatory laws and attitudes that hold back human progress, Judge Walker left no holds barred in his stunning and precise analysis. One of the many notable sections include the following:

The evidence shows that the movement of marriage away from a gendered institution and toward an institution free from state-mandated gender roles reflects an evolution in the understanding of gender rather than a change in marriage. The evidence did not show any historical purpose for excluding same-sex couples from marriage, as states have never required spouses to have an ability or willingness to procreate in order to marry. FF 21. Rather, the exclusion exists as an artifact of a time when the genders were seen as having distinct roles in society and in marriage. That time has passed.

The right to marry has been historically and remains the right to choose a spouse and, with mutual consent, join together and form a household. FF 19-20, 34-35. Race and gender restrictions shaped marriage during eras of race and gender inequality, but such restrictions were never part of the historical core of the institution of marriage. FF 33. Today, gender is not relevant to the state in determining spouses’ obligations to each other and to their dependents. Relative gender composition aside, same-sex couples are situated identically to opposite-sex couples in terms of their ability to perform the rights and obligations of marriage under California law. FF 48. Gender no longer forms an essential part of marriage; marriage under law is a union of equals.

Whether social conservatives admit it or not, human society is always evolving and changing with new ideas and breakthroughs as well as through human evolution itself. To ignore this simple fact in favor of antiquated views and prejudice is ignorant and contrary to the American ideals of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. Thankfully, we’re closer to equality for all in this country.