A federal panel voted Thursday in favor of partially lifting a 31-year ban against accepting blood donations from gay and bisexual men.
The current ban in the U.S. applies to any potential male blood donor who has had sex with another man since 1977, the start of the country’s AIDS epidemic. The FDA website states that these men are at an “increased risk for HIV, hepatitis B and certain other infections that can be transmitted by transfusion.” The Department of Health and Human Service’s Advisory Committee on Blood and Tissue Safety and Availability examined data and heard testimony on Thursday from critics of the lifetime ban, who say it is discriminatory and now unnecessary, since technological advances have made the risk infinitesimal in most cases.
The panel then voted 16-2 in support of allowing men who have had sex with other men to give blood after being abstinent for one year, Bloomberg Businessweek reports. The FDA is not obliged to follow the panel’s advice but Jennifer Rodriguez, a spokeswoman for the agency, said “the meeting provided valuable information and perspectives that will help inform the FDA’s deliberations.”
From Adam Taylor at WaPo, to clear things up for those who are unclear about just how small a part of Africa is having a problem with Ebola.
GLAA endorses Initiative 71, the "Legalization of Possession of Minimal Amounts of Marijuana for Personal Use Act of 2014," and urges you to vote for it.
We have included it in our ratings ad, discussed it in our policy brief, Building on Victory, and discussed it in our testimony this week before the D.C. Council Judiciary Committee decrying racial disparities in police stops:
[W]e appreciate the work of our friends at ACLU of the Nation's Capital, which reported in 2013 on the dramatic racial disparity in marijuana arrests in the District:
"Officers from fifteen different police forces … made marijuana arrests in 2010, however MPD officers made 4,996 of the 5,393 total arrests, or almost 93%.... PSA 602, located in Anacostia, had a 2010 marijuana arrest rate of 2,488 per 100,000. By contrast, PSA 204, located in Woodley Park, had a marijuana arrest rate of just 33 per 100,000."
Given the roughly equal rates of self-reported marijuana use by white and black citizens, the disparity in enforcement must be confronted by this committee. In the meantime, the people are changing the law. GLAA endorses Initiative 71, the "Legalization of Possession of Minimal Amounts of Marijuana for Personal Use Act of 2014." This will not end all problems associated with the disastrously counterproductive war on drugs, but it is a start.
Unfortunately, Ward 7 Councilmember Yvette Alexander, who leans conservative on many issues, is not quite with the program, judging by her comments on Twitter:
Legalize Marijuana for increased justice, opportunity, public safety and reducing racial injustice! Give me a break! That's a bit much.— Yvette M Alexander (@CMYMA) October 31, 2014
@dougsfresh All I'm saying is don't make up reasons to do it which are misleading. It won't lower incarceration rates for Black males! Smh— Yvette M Alexander (@CMYMA) October 31, 2014
I replied to her this morning:
@CMYMA Yvette, please. There's a big racial disparity in marijuana arrests. Ward 7 residents much more likely to be nabbed than west siders.— Richard Rosendall (@RickRosendall) October 31, 2014
Do not think for a moment that your vote doesn't matter. Please vote on or before November 4, and make sure to vote for Initiative 71. It will be a vote for fairness and justice.
I was looking for something else, and came upon this clip from the HBO version of Tony Kushner's Angels in America. Justin Kirk as Prior Walter, hospitalized with AIDS, tells his friend Belize, played by Jeffrey Wright, about the angels who are visiting him. Prior and Belize are former lovers and dear friends.
I saw both parts of Angels on a Saturday in 1994 on Broadway. I vividly remember Wright delivering the line, "My jaw aches at the memory." Wright's performance in that production won him a Tony, and his HBO reprise won him an Emmy. I appreciate having the TV version (though it lacks another Tony winner, Kathleen Chalfant, whose roles were given to Meryl Streep), because in 1994 I was in the balcony. TV gives you a front-row seat. This landmark drama was the first time I saw Wright. He has played a wide range of characters since, from MLK in HBO's Boycott to a CIA agent in the James Bond movies, to a Dominican drug lord in the Shaft remake, to the dangerous Dr. Valentin Narcisse in Boardwalk Empire. He is always compelling. If you know of a more gifted actor currently working, do tell.
Another clip, this one facing off with the dying Roy Cohn, played by the man whose performance in Dog Day Afternoon convinced Wright he must be an actor. Imagine Wright's thrill at this collaboration. If you are unfamiliar with Angels (something which you ought to correct), the ghost standing next to Belize at the end (when he says "I am the shadow on your grave") is that of Ethel Rosenberg.
Chris Caesar at Boston.com reports:
The deputy chief of staff for Senator Ted Cruz thinks he knows how Ebola got into America.
Nick Muzin quickly deleted the tweet after receiving a flood of critical comments.
This provoked plenty of responses on Twitter. For example:
(Hat tip: Joe Jervis)
My Blade column this week looks at the right wing's political exploitation of Ebola. Here's a portion:
Obama Derangement Syndrome spiked again last week over Ebola, after a man from Liberia was diagnosed with the viral disease in Dallas, Texas.
Radio talk show host Laura Ingraham asked, "Why did Obama let the Ebola virus into the U.S.?" Another radio demagogue, Michael Savage, said Obama "wants to infect the nation with Ebola" as part of a war on white people. Rep. Louie Gohmert (R-TX) said that the American troops being sent to West Africa to help fight the Ebola outbreak are really being sent "to go catch Ebola and die." Rep. Randy Weber (R-TX) managed to connect the Dallas Ebola case with ISIS, the IRS, and Benghazi. Fox News host Steve Doocy asked Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Director Dr. Tim Frieden, "Why should we believe you when you're telling us this stuff?" since Frieden works for Obama.
It is difficult enough to confront resurgent diseases without an explosion of unhinged conspiracy mongering.
Update: I note with sorrow that the Dallas patient, Thomas Eric Duncan, has died. May he rest in peace.
It just doesn't quit. The hate, I mean.
(Hat tip: Right Wing Watch)
Our friend Ernest Hopkins, San Francisco AIDS Foundation’s director of legislative affairs, writes (on FB):
Participating in the first ever White House sponsored Summit on HIV/AIDS in Gay and Bisexual Men. It's hard to believe that such a meeting has never occurred but I am pleased to be representing the San Francisco AIDS Foundation and the National Black Gay Men's Advocacy Coalition (NBGMAC) in a solution oriented day of action that hopefully will reintegrate HIV into the policy agenda of the LGBT advocacy community. HIV/AIDS continues to take a disastrous toll on the well being of the LGBT community, especially the low income who face a myriad of social determinants that drive poor health outcomes and among young Black gay men. If HIV advocates and public health officials are truly going to drive rates of new HIV infections towards zero, our public and private health and social justice institutions must focus on the health and well being of gay and bisexual men. I look forward to a day of tough talk that leads to actions that can be achieved during the Obama Administration.
NFL Player Devon Still gives his daughter a pep talk before her cancer surgery. Watching this did my heart a lot of good. (Follow link for video.)
Update: "After a 5hr 50min surgery the surgeon was able to remove ALL of her tumor and all of her lymph nodes and her right adrenal gland where it all started from."
The loss of extraordinary transgender health activist Andrew Cray last week at age 28 has been hard for a lot of us to get our minds around. The August 30 memorial service at St. Thomas Church in Dupont Circle helped, as gatherings of love and respect do. Working through his illness, Andrew played a crucial role in getting the details right for Mayor Gray's historic executive action earlier this year to guarantee transgender people non-discriminatory access to health care. The service was led beautifully by Bishop Gene Robinson, who had worked with Andrew at the Center for American Progress and had officiated at Andrew's wedding to Sarah McBride six days before. The mutual grieving and celebration of Andrew among the CAP staff and local and national LGBT activists at the service was especially poignant in that he had helped so many people in such a short life.
Here is the eulogy given by Sterling Washington, Director of the D.C. Office of GLBT Affairs:
Before Amy reads the condolence letter from Mayor Gray, I wanted to say a few words about Andrew Cray. I admit to struggling with what those words would be, which is a bit unusual for me. This all seemed to happen so fast and I haven't had time to wrap my head around it. And I know that if it is difficult for me, it is unbearably arduous for his family. After all, it was just six days ago that Andy and Sarah were married and now we are eulogizing him.
To say he was an indefatigable activist is an understatement. Andrew Cray did more in his 28 years than so many accomplish in a lifetime. And he did so in service to others. For example, he worked closely with the Mayor's Office of GLBT Affairs last September to educate the LGBT community about the benefits of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) and the local DC Health Benefits Exchange. But, Andrew's most enduring work with the Office involved his legal research and advice when the District moved to bar discrimination against the transgender community in health insurance. This was no easy task and was a year in the making. As we approached the end of the process, there were several surreptitious calls late at night between my Office and a handful of advocates – Andy Bowen, Kellan Baker, and Andrew. Sometimes, it involved Kellan carrying messages to Andrew, whose health had really begun to deteriorate by that point. You see, Andrew was among a handful of legal experts in the country who understood the verbiage needed to ensure our policy was as inclusive as it could be. To be clear, many activists had begun laying the groundwork for this years ago; however, when it came to shaping and actually writing the policy clarification, Andrew was invaluable. Because of his work and that of a handful of advocates, the District has the most comprehensive policy barring discrimination in health insurance (including Medicaid) on the basis of gender identity of any jurisdiction in the country. We are mourning Andrew today, but the fruits of his labor will live on and help so many get the life-saving procedures they so desperately need. And not just here in DC. On Thursday – the day that Andrew died – the city of Cincinnati decided that it would cover gender reassignment surgeries.
Aside from his work, Andrew's passing leaves a hole in the heart of so many of us here. And that is harder to speak to. His love, energy, and friendship still endures albeit in a different state now. And we will carry with us every day the memory of those and we are indeed changed – in a positive way - because our lives were touched by his.
Mayor Gray's condolence letter was read by GLBT Affairs Deputy Director Amy Loudermilk.News reports at the Blade and Think Progress. Cray wrote an op-ed at Advocate.com in March of this year. May this beautiful young man rest in peace. He has certainly left the world better than he found it.
My latest column is now up at Metro Weekly. It is subtitled, "Amid war and plague, right-wing Americans export religious intolerance." Here's an excerpt:
In Entebbe on August 9, more than one hundred LGBT Ugandans celebrated the first Pride Uganda since the Constitutional Court overturned the draconian Anti-Homosexuality Act (AHA) for being passed without a quorum. Entebbe is on Lake Victoria, and the paradise suggested by some of the photos would not make you think the revelers risked mob violence, unless you noticed the masks some wore.
A British name for an African lake is a relic of the same colonial legacy that keeps homosexuality illegal despite AHA being tossed out. African leaders are strangely selective in their outrage over Western influences. They embrace foreign laws, religions, and aid while treating sexual minorities who have always lived among them like hostile aliens. American evangelicals like Scott Lively incited the persecution with the slander that gays recruit and sexually abuse children. This pious vulture denies any responsibility for the consequences, including LGBT Ugandans being hunted like animals.
Genie, you're free. pic.twitter.com/WjA9QuuldD— The Academy (@TheAcademy) August 12, 2014
The Motion Picture Academy posted the above tweet yesterday after the death of actor and comedian Robin Williams at age 63. Below is a performance Williams gave in England after Barack Obama's first presidential election victory. May he rest in peace.
Intead of dying politely? RT @EQMatters: Rush Limbaugh: The left will politicize Ebola, just like they politicized AIDS to undermine Reagan— Richard Rosendall (@RickRosendall) August 4, 2014
I was replying to this:
Rush Limbaugh: The left will "politicize" ebola, just like it did with AIDS! [AUDIO] http://t.co/NLsYLn3k71— Salon.com (@Salon) August 4, 2014
WikiLeaks source Chelsea Manning has been approved to begin receiving hormone replacement therapy while serving her 35-year prison sentence at the U.S. Disciplinary Barracks at Fort Leavenworth, Kan., the Associated Press reports.
This is the right decision. Denial of healthcare is not an appropriate form of punishment. All prisoners are entitled to proper healthcare, and transgender prisoners are no exception.
There have been reports that more than 100 of those aboard Malaysian Airlines Flight MH17 were on their way to the World AIDS Conference in Melbourne. If so (and there have been conflicting reports), the crime of the downing of the commercial jetliner might also be devastating for AIDS research.
One of the passengers was eminent AIDS researcher Dr. Joep Lange, executive scientific director of the Amsterdam Institute for Global Health and Development and former president of the International AIDS Society. Dr. Lange once said, "If we can get a cold can of Coke to any part of Africa, we can certainly deliver AIDS treatment." That remains true.
The Guardian reports that a team of OSCE inspectors was barred from the crash site by Russian-backed rebels:
The commander of the rebel unit, a man called Ilya who is known as Commander Glum, expressed annoyance as the OSCE team stood its ground, keen to access the scenes of carnage. 'OSCE came here without negotiating,' he shouted, as they prepared to leave...We didn’t agree to meet the OSCE here, go away,' he added, firing a warning shot. The five-strong convoy departed rapidly.
Above, Jonathan Capehart (subbing for Steve Kornacki) discusses the Supreme Court’s Hobby Lobby ruling with Gabriela Domenzain, Justin Snow and Chris Geidner. Below, Evan Wolfson joins the discussion.
Tony Merevick at BuzzFeed reports:
The World Health Organization announced Friday that for the first time, it “strongly recommends” that men who have sex with men should consider antiretroviral drugs along with the use of condoms as an additional method of preventing HIV infection.
The health agency said that new prevention options such as pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) — currently in the form of a daily pill containing two drugs — are needed alongside condom use to reduce HIV infection rates among men who have sex with men, a key population in which infection rates remain high.
My latest column is now online at Metro Weekly, arguing that faith-based advocacy should not be disguised as licensed healthcare. Here's an excerpt:
Encountering the Family Research Council's Peter Sprigg in the D.C. Council Chambers on June 27 took me back five years to our battles over the District's marriage equality bill. This time it was a hearing on a bill to prohibit conversion therapy for minors. Sprigg was furious at the attempt to deny choice to troubled teens seeking to overcome their gay desires.
One should always be skeptical toward right-wing busybodies who use "choice" as a rallying cry, and so it is in this case. Gay and lesbian teens whose ears are filled with cries of abomination know the sound of rejection. If choice is a concern, shouldn't they be given the choice of a supportive environment? And if professional therapy is the way to help, shouldn't we mention that homosexuality was declassified as a mental disorder in 1973?
The anti-gay groups represented at the hearing, including FRC, PFOX, and the International Healing Foundation, are frozen in amber on homosexuality, which they deem forever sick, sinful, and illicit. With the pathologizing and criminalizing of gayness having ended in America, and with many faiths affirming LGBT lives, the dwindling band of demonizers resorts increasingly to shrillness and deception at home and proselytizing overseas.
The homophobes conceal their faith-based motivation behind a veil of pseudoscience. The trouble is, they dictate nature rather than observing it.
The Washington Blade and Metro Weekly report on the June 27 hearing on a bill to prohibit conversion therapy for minors. My caption for the above photo, in which notorious reparative therapist Christopher Doyle is testifying, is me (over his shoulder) saying, "Who are these creepy guys?" and Alison Gill of HRC (at left) saying, "I thought they were your friends."
John Oliver gave an excellent take on the Hobby Lobby ruling the day before it was issued.
The fact that court observers saw this one coming is no comfort. Building on the corporations-are-people ruling in Citizens United, SCOTUS on Monday effectively ruled that a closely held corporation has more rights of personhood than a woman does. The notion that a company's religious views (what an absurd phrase) trump the religious rights of its employees is not only topsy-turvy, it threatens to turn every shop into a law unto itself.
Here is an excerpt of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsberg's scathing dissent:
Religious organizations exist to foster the interests of persons subscribing to the same religious faith. Not so of for-profit corporations. … The distinction between a community made up of believers in the same religion and one embracing persons of diverse beliefs, clear as it is, constantly escapes the Court’s attention. One can only wonder why the Court shuts this key difference from sight.
Our friend Jonathan Rauch has an interesting take on Hobby Lobby's religious liberty claims:
Religious folks are pushing the envelope really far when they say it’s a major intrusion on their religious conscience to have to buy an insurance policy that covers choices that other people make. To me that’s kind of picking a fight. And I am very sympathetic to religious liberty claims.
I agree with the dissenting opinions in the Hobby Lobby ruling, which say, “If you find your religion being burdened by something so indirect then when does it end?” If religious folks try to withdraw too much from practices of ordinary society—if they push too hard for the right not to participate—it will backfire. It sends a bad message about their inclusivity and their willingness to engage with society.
I spent 5 hours on Friday in a D.C. Council hearing on a bill to prohibit conversion therapy for minors (so you wouldn't have to). One highlight was Peter Sprigg of FRC expressing his fury over the bill. Special thanks to Bishop Rainey Cheeks and Rev. Graylan Hagler for their testimony, to Saul Cruz for representing GLAA, and to Alison Gill of HRC for coordinating the coalition effort. Frank Kameny would be rolling in his grave (if he had one) over the repeated invocations of NARTH and other quacks by our opponents. But we have the science, the DC Council, and 2 federal courts on our side.
Lots of groups got involved, including the DC Center, Wanda Alston Foundation, SMYAL, SPLC, The Trevor Project, American Academy of Pediatrics, PFLAG, National Association of Social Workers, American Counseling Association, Alliance for Progressive Values, People of Faith for Equality, plus survivors of reparative therapy. It was a fine demonstration of a broad and strong coalition effort. Thanks to all of them. But oh, how happy I was when Graylan Hagler's voice boomed from the witness table. It made up for so much nonsense and lies I had been listening to from our opponents.
Oh, and though HIV Testing Day and other matters kept Metro Teen AIDS from attending, they are submitting written testimony. Speaking of which, anyone is free to weigh in. From the hearing notice: "For those unable to testify at the hearing, written statements are encouraged and will be made a part of the official record. Copies of written statements can be emailed to email@example.com or mailed to Rayna Smith at the John A. Wilson Building, 1350 Pennsylvania Avenue, N.W., Room 115, Washington, D.C., 20004. The record will close at 5:00 p.m. on Friday, July 11, 2014."
In the next few days I will post links to various groups' testimony over at GLAA's main website.
Matthew Cella at The Washington Times reports on a matter that we have been following for a few years:
A D.C. jury found that a nonprofit group and its director misappropriated more than $300,000 from the city’s HIV/AIDS program for renovations on a proposed job-training center that instead was used to open a strip club.
The jury found damages of $329,653 against the nonprofit Miracle Hands Inc. and its director, reformed gangster Cornell Jones, after a four-day trial in D.C. Superior Court.
GLAA wrote about this in our 2012 policy brief, which provides some context:
The contrast between Ward 5 Councilmember Harry Thomas Jr.'s vehement opposition to gay strip clubs in 2007 and his support for straight-oriented strip clubs in 2011 suggests a gaping double standard that he has not credibly explained. [Note: As we go to press, Councilmember Thomas appears set to resign as part of a plea deal with federal prosecutors. We are not deleting this material because the issue continues to stir debate.] WAMU reported that Thomas "has supported the applications of the clubs and says these upscale strip clubs can be good corporate neighbors." Thomas denied being influenced by campaign donations, despite a Washington Times report (in June 2011) that "Keith Forney, a co-owner of the Stadium Club whose companies have received more than $90 million in D.C. construction funds since 2000, made separate payments to Team Thomas in 2008 and 2009 totaling $6,000." On top of this, former crack cocaine kingpin Cornell Jones is accused of diverting more than $300,000 in District HIV/AIDS funds to renovate the club. The city owes us a single standard that neither depends on campaign cash nor involves misuse of public funds.
At last, some justice in the case. As the Times story quotes D.C. Attorney General Irvin B. Nathan, the verdict “should serve as a warning to all those who would attempt to misuse District grant funds.”
On Friday, June 27 at noon in the D.C. Council chamber, GLAA and others will testify on Bill 20-501, to prohibit so-called conversion therapy for minors. The above video from National Center for Lesbian Rights, with whom GLAA is in coalition, is from their #BornPerfect campaign against this dangerous and discredited junk medicine.
Brian Tashman of Right Wing Watch reported from Friday's "Road to Majority" summit. In this clip, Gary Bauer offers an astonishing catalog of lies about our 44th president, from he destroyed America's military to he declared war on the Little Sisters of the Poor. One wonders how many wars the (in my view) more-than-sufficiently hawkish Obama would have to start in order to avoid the former charge. As to the latter charge, it appears to be based on the nuns having to fill out a form concerning their religious exemption to the contraception mandate in ACA, because they don't just want to avoid providing such converge to their employees--they want to prevent their employees from getting it from anyone.
In short: as usual with the radical religious right, if they are prevented from imposing their intolerant doctrines on others, they claim their own freedom has been infringed. And the commandment against bearing false witness is once again trampled by the ones most loudly announcing their righteousness. As the saying goes, God help us.
This guy says he doesn't want to be misunderstood as being anti-gay. He just wants to preserve dangerous quackery as an option.
Texas Gov. Rick Perry, who sets off a lot of people's gaydar, compares homosexuality to alcoholism. Jonathan Capehart comments.
Seahawks cornerback Richard Sherman joins with Michelle Obama and a few of his teammates to make a video as part of her Let's Move! campaign to promote healthy cooking, and spoofs himself in the process.
Aaron Hicklin at out.com reports on Andrew Sullivan's defense of the PrEP drug Truvada against the attacks by Larry Kramer:
On his popular website, The Dish, Sullivan challenged Kramer to think through the logic of his position, adding that had Truvada been availabe at the height of the AIDS pandemic in New York, no-one would have turned it down. "I think of how it might have saved me," he writes. "I was using condoms after all, and following the rules of safe sex. But I screwed up somewhere along the way, and Truvada would have been a safety net. Why would anyone not want to add that layer of security?" He adds that the decline in condom use is not about gay men, but about men in general. "You need not ascribe any pathology to the reluctance to wear a condom when the consequence is much less dire than it once was," he wrote. "You simply have to be a dude with a dick."
NYT talks to Larry Kramer on the occasion of the TV version of his landmark play The Normal Heart. Congrats to him.
However. "We have no power in Washington, or anywhere else," says Kramer, who doesn't do nuance. In the week of Frank Kameny's 89th birthday, I say what he once said to Kramer in Lambda Rising bookstore: Larry, you are wrong.
That we haven't won everything doesn't mean we won nothing. Kramer has done much to admire; but his boorishness and disrespect are gratuitous and increasingly ridiculous.
(Photo of Larry Kramer by David Shankbone)
The latest from Right Wing Watch. Like you're surprised?
Joe Jervis writes:
Beautiful, the Broadway musical that tells Carole King's life story through her songs, has been running for months to record crowds and rave reviews. King had famously declined to see the show, telling Playbill in December after walking out of a reading, "I can't watch my life played out before me." She changed her mind on Thursday, choosing to attend the show during the week that Broadway casts issue curtain call pleas for donations to Equity Fights AIDS.
Lovely. Especially nice for those of us who were in our teens during her peak years.
Charles Gaba at ACAsignups.net provides an informed response to anti-healthcare trolls who, being committed to declaring the Affordable Care Act an utter failure no matter what, have taken to saying, "But how many of them have PAID???" By this they are suggesting to dispute the figure of 7 million enrollees is inflated. Click on the above link to Gaba's blog entry for a thorough refutation of that right-wing talking point.
(Hat tip: Markos Moulitsas on Mark Thompson's "Make It Plain" show on Sirius/XM Radio, yesterday evening.)
The senator's wacky dad has an odd way of showing his love for gay people.
Setting aside the fact that sexual orientation is not a choice (just ask homophobes when they chose to be straight), the notion that something chosen cannot be a civil right is awfully strange coming from people who make a lot of noise about their chosen religion.
News coming out of the White House today shows that a technique supported by the National Institute of Health using genetic modification of cells has proven a safe way to treat and control HIV without drugs.
Our friend Ernest Hopkins comments:
One of several very exciting new studies demonstrating the importance of the investment in basic research and HIV specific research. The NIH is an amazing institution and the breakthroughs in scientific understanding coming from hard, deliberate work over a number of years is deeply gratifying.