In the wake of the nation’s deadliest mass shooting in Orlando on Sunday, U.S. Rep. Jared Polis, an openly gay Boulder Democrat who represents Colorado’s 2nd Congressional District, decried the hatred and intolerance directed at the LGBT community and called on the federal government to drop its ban on blood donations by gay men.
Soon after the massacre that left 50 dead at an Orlando nightclub, Polis went on Twitter to call for the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to stop recommending its prohibition on sexually active gay men donating blood.
“My blood is as good as yours (O+ in my case),” Polis tweeted Sunday, right after news broke that there had been mass casualties at Pulse nightclub, which is popular with Orlando’s LGBT community. “Friends and spouses being turned away from donating blood to help their loved ones.”
Polis, co-chair of the Congressional LGBT Equality Caucus and the first openly gay parent to serve in Congress, also issued the following official statement:
“The Orlando shooting was a direct attack on equality, diversity, and freedom; it was an act of terror against all Americans,” Polis said. “Most tragically it snuffed out dozens of vibrant lives too soon, and darkened countless others. My heartfelt sympathy is with the victims as well as their families, friends, and the city of Orlando.
“My thoughts also remain with the entire LGBT community. Our community today has been the target of hate and terror, and it is tragic that members of the community who want to give blood to help their friends are unjustifiably prevented from doing so despite the need. While we mourn those lost, we must continue to be resilient. We, as a community, know that love will always prevail over hate.”
On Twitter, Polis repeatedly took on FDA policy on blood donation: “Blood donors needed to help victims of #Orlando mass shooting, but friends and spouses of those in need not allowed to give.”
Sexually active gay men have been blocked from donating blood for more than 30 years. The FDA recommended the ban during the peak of the AIDS epidemic in the 1980s. The federal agency eased the ban last year for men who have not been sexually active for a year or more, but Florida reportedly has not adopted those guidelines.
“Gay Americans can bleed red for our country by serving in the armed forces but not donate blood to help #orlando victims #EndTheBan,” Polis tweeted. “Listen up @US_FDA there is no such thing as gay blood, black, white, Muslim, Jewish, straight blood– it all bleeds red and can save live[s]. Correct @US_FDA policy is obvious. Use same behavior-based screening for LGBT, straight donors; risk a function of behavior NOT orientation.”
Sunday’s shooting by a Florida man claiming allegiance to radical Islamic terror groups and reportedly outraged by seeing gay men kissing in Miami is the worst mass shooting in United States history, with 50 dead, including the shooter.
President Barack Obama on Tuesday reportedly denounced presumptive Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump for his anti-Muslim rhetoric in the wake of the shooting.
“We hear language that singles out immigrants and suggests entire religious communities are complicit in violence,” Obama said of Trump’s comments and his proposal to ban Muslims from entering the United States. “Where does this stop?”
It’s unclear if the Orlando shooter may have been an occasional patron of the nightclub and may have in fact been gay, as reported by several news outlets on Tuesday. His wife is faces charges for possibly knowing about the crime in advance and trying to talk him out of it without reporting him to police.