Indiana University Teacher Arrested After Objecting to Red Cross Ban on Gay Blood Donation

An Indiana University teacher says he was arrested last week after telling Red Cross bloodmobile employees that they were in violation of the school's nondiscrimination policy for prohibiting donations of blood from gay men. The situation escalated, police were called, and the man was placed under arrest and spent a day in jail, he says.

Uri Horesh writes: Blood

I went in, waited for my turn, had my blood pressure and hemoglobin checked, and proceded to answer a computerized questionnaire. When it was reviewed by the Red Cross employee, I was told that because I answered the question about having had sex with other men the way I did, I would be deferred indefinitely from donating blood.

I, in turn, told her that she was in violation of the Indiana University nondiscrimination policy, which, among others, prohibits banning any person from participating in university activities on the basis of sexual orientation. She called another Red Cross employee, who in turn called another Red Cross employee, who in turn called Indiana University Police.

Two police officers arrived at the bloodmobile, refusing to listen to anything I had to say. They grabbed me, refused to read me my rights under Miranda, even when I explicitly asked them to (they eventually did, after I was handcuffed and placed in the police car), and only told me I was under arrest after I asked them whether I was.

I later learned from one of the officers that one of the Red Cross employees (he referred to her as a "nurse") accused me of spitting at her. That is a false accusation. But in the State of Indiana, spitting at someone is considered "battery," and the mere charge of battery warrants placing the person arrested for that charge in custody for 24 hours.

Comments

  1. Larry says

    Today’s pop quiz: Who is more immature? This teacher or the photographer who gave Reagan’s portrait the finger at the white house.

    a) the teacher
    b) the photographer
    c) both a and b are equally immature
    d) none of the above

  2. Jmac says

    the Red Cross and Canadian Blood Services both disgust me. Don’t give me all this crap about “we never get enough donations” when you’re turning people away for no reason other than your bigoted attitudes.

  3. Marty says

    Pointing fingers at blood donation workers is pointless. They are simply following established federal guidelines. There should be activism on this issue, but it needs to be pointed at those decision makers at the federal level. This professor is an idiot.

  4. johnny says

    His full story says “I wanted to make a point”.

    Well, what’s the point?

    That if you get hostile on the bloodmobile that you can get arrested in our backward state? Thanks, Mr. Obvious.

    I think there are much better ways to go about protesting this stuff, this guy knew what the answer was before he boarded.

  5. Mike8787 says

    The Red Cross has no control over these policies. Their screening processes are federally regulated by the FDA, who currently refuses to reassess the logic of the ban.

    This professor’s reaction is wrong-headed. As you do not have a “right” to donate blood, this is not, under the law, discrimination. If he wants to make a difference, he should be advocating his community to support repeal of the policy (and its replacement with a process screening for risk behaviors), and for the FDA to fund the MSM study it claims is necessary before opening up the blood supply. Having a hissy fit at a blood drive not only does nothing, but kills sympathy for the cause.

  6. chris255 says

    They turn people away because the the phobes and politics being played out at the CDC. The politicians in charge of the CDC policy are the ones corrupting the system for the sole basis of public stigma associated with LGBTs. There are numerous studies out that LGBT blood is no more ‘at risk’ than any other blood. The nurses at the bloodmobile have no control over the questions so if seeking provocation and arrest to being attention to the matter was the goal – mission accomplished.

    The weasels at the top of the food chain are the US Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) all the flavors of domestic warfare.
    http://www.help.senate.gov/
    The HELP Committee jurisdiction encompasses most of the agencies, institutes, and programs of the Department of Health and Human Services, including the Food and Drug Administration, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the National Institutes of Health, the Administration on Aging, the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, and the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality.
    Controled by the Republicans.

    Democrats by Rank

    Tom Harkin (IA)
    Barbara A. Mikulski (MD)
    Jeff Bingaman (NM)
    Patty Murray (WA)
    Bernard Sanders (I) (VT)
    Robert P. Casey, Jr. (PA)
    Kay R. Hagan (NC)
    Jeff Merkley (OR)
    Al Franken (MN)
    Michael F. Bennet (CO)
    Sheldon Whitehouse (RI)
    Richard Blumenthal (CT)

    Republicans by Rank

    Michael B. Enzi (WY)
    Lamar Alexander (TN)
    Richard Burr (NC)
    Johnny Isakson (GA)
    Rand Paul (KY)
    Orrin G. Hatch (UT)
    John McCain (AZ)
    Pat Roberts (KS)
    Lisa Murkowski (AK)
    Mark Kirk (IL)

  7. Mort says

    I’m forever dismayed by the intolerance of many commenters on this site when it comes to actions like those cited in this story. Okay, maybe the guy was a little heavy-handed and misguided, but where’s your outrage at the insidiious policy – as well as the poor sheep who, unwittingly or not, perpetuate it – that automatically makes second-class citizens of gay men?

  8. Mike8787 says

    @Mort: We’re all outraged at the policy. However, just like I would point out the stupidity of at a protestor holding a stuffed animal rally on the steps of the Capitol, I’m not going to clap my hands at a fool making a scene that has no chance of changing policy of helping anyone.

  9. REDBALL says

    as someone who receives blood products on a regular basis due to a genetic hematological condition, i want to see the evidence behind this ban…then we can go from there.

  10. Rational says

    No one has seemingly cared much that, according to the Professor, the employee (nurse) lied about him spitting…causing him to spend a day in jail. The policy is the policy until it’s changed, but knowing the law and lying about what actually occurred to get someone out of the way in order to continue business is deplorable. This is truly a violation of the law. Was it the nurse’s idea, or the policy of the Indiana Red Cross to get rid of ‘trouble makers’?

  11. Mike8787 says

    @Redball: The current ban began in 1986, during the height of the AIDS crisis and when there were no tests for HIV+ of AIDS. At the time, given the number of MSM infected and the lack of testing methods, the ban made sense.

    Today, not so much. All blood is tested using multiple methods, including nucleo-acid testing, which virtually screens out all HIV+ positive donations. In turn, all blood is held for 12 days to rule of recent infections (the maximum window period between HIV infection and antibodies presenting in the blood is about 12 days). The result is that we have a ban on blood donations because of the risk of false negatives. False negatives, the FDA states, occur in 1 in 1 million HIV+ donations. That’s not 1 in 1 million donations, mind you, but 1 in 1 million HIV+ ones.

    A closer look at the statistics we have give us a good idea of the risk posed to blood supply should the gay blood ban be repealed outright:

    – The FDA asserts that their testing fails to correctly detect fewer than 1 in 1 million infected HIV+ donors.

    – The CDC projects that there are approximately 12 million individuals in the U.S. living with HIV.

    – 49% of these individuals identify as men who have sex with men.

    – 20% of these individuals were undiagnosed and unaware of their status — making them possible donors (and assuming individuals knowledgable of their status will elect not to donate).

    – The American Blood Center estimes that only 10% of eligible donors are likely to donate.

    – Furthermore, the ABC states that the average donor will donate 2 times per year.

    12 million x 49% x 20% x 10% x 2 = 23,250

    That is, each year, men who have sex with men who are HIV+ and unaware of their status would provide 23,250 donations per year.

    If the FDA has a false negative for 1 in 1 million HIV+ donations, it would take 42.5 years for one false negative to occur. This is with an outright repeal of the ban — should the FDA put in place a screening process based on risk behaviors, it is likely that the risk to the blood would decrease. While the FDA claims that alternative screening questions have been tested and are ineffective, they have provided no studies or evidence of this fact.

    How many lives could gay blood donors save in that time?

    – America’s Blood Centers projects that one blood donation can save as many as three lives.

    – There are an estimated 2,491,034 gay men in the United States.

    – Again, 10% of the population is likely to donate blood.

    2,491,034 x 10% x 3 x 42.5 years = 1,494,618

    In 42.5 years, blood donations from gay men could save as many 1,494,618 lives.

    1 HIV+ blood transfusion for 1.5 million lives saved. Is this a logical policy?

  12. Francis says

    OK, we can say that this teacher was being immature or shortsighted, but what we should be focusing on is:

    a)the homophobic blood policy

    b)the homophobic actions of the Indiana police and

    c)the lie from the Red Cross employee

    That’s where the focus needs to be. Taking a stand is a good thing. He’s not the person to castigate here. It’s the FDA and CDC that should earn all the complaints.

  13. Wdeanis says

    Maybe it all started with his wish to get off their call list. I’ll be coming out to them pretty soon, hopefully that will stop the 4 calls per week telling me how desperate they are for blood.

  14. Randy says

    Marty: “Pointing fingers at blood donation workers is pointless. They are simply following established federal guidelines.”

    Ah yes, the time-honored “I was just following orders” defence.

  15. Prof Sancho Panza says

    I always thought it ironic that universities with non-discrimination policies used those policies to exclude military recruiters (prior to the repeal of DADT) but not the Red Cross bloodmobiles.

  16. MarkRocks says

    The protest from the professor wasn’t against the Red Cross – you’re missing the point – the protest was against Indiana University’s policies. IU says they do not tolerate discrimination against anyone (including based on sexual orientation) in any program, service, or activity on campus. However, they’re allowing the ARC on campus, sponsoring the Red Cross on campus, and facilitating activities for which a large population of the campus is prohibited.

    Consider changing the issue from “men who have sex with men” to “those of genetic descent from Africa”. There are lots of genetic and medical conditions more prevalent in African-Americans for which testing can identify (sickle-cell anemia is the most obvious), and which prevent blood from being used.

    What about those of Eastern European Jewish descent? There are a several genetic disease factors from that sub-population for which there is testing and which exclude the use of blood and blood products – but we still “allow” that population to give blood.

    If he wants to protest the violation of the University’s policy, he has every right to do so – and he should point out hypocrisy. If this catches on at other college campuses and blood donations decline because blood collection is no longer allowed on those campuses with non-discrimination statements, well… who knows what might happen.

  17. RandyOwen says

    It is not the Red Cross, it is the FDA. Should the nurse have said, OK screw the FDA lets take your blood against the orders of the FDA and have the entire regional blood center shut down by the FDA? (Yes that has happened for a lot less, and in bigger areas) The fight should be taken to the FDA. This is like yelling a Mcdonalds fry cook because they use sub par chicken in their McNuggets, it may make you feel better but it will get you no where.

  18. William says

    PLEASE CHANGE THE TITLE OF THIS ARTICLE. The Red Cross is following federal policy. They do not create the policy that bans gay men from giving blood. Let’s do a bit of research before jumping to conclusions here.

  19. SRB says

    MarkRocks has it right, and once again several readers of this blog show an utter failure at reading comprehension. This is an individual but grass roots action on the IU campus in order to call attention to–and force a conversation about–the obvious conflict between IU’s anti-discrimination policy and Red Cross activities there. (The situation is the same at my campus.) Once universities, along with other public institutions and agencies, no longer allow the Red Cross to recruit donors there, the ALREADY recommended change to the donor rules will most likely change.

    In addition to this being an absolutely defensible individual protest, it also unveiled other forms of homophobia that also need to be addressed. The actions of the police (who can be surprised after what we’ve seen in the UC) and the nurse were inappropriate. Both should have recognized the protest for what it was, protect this individual’s right to protest, and contacted someone in the administration to resolve the conflict and to get the conversation about their so called anti-discrimination policy going.

    Readers, think critically before you jump on your high horse. This is precisely the kind of action that SHOULD be happening.

  20. RandyOwen says

    @SRB If you want to use that argument he still should not have been protesting the red cross alone, but any FDA function on campus. Vaccine shot clinics, speakers for classes, any clinical trials and so on. It is not the Red Cross, they have openly advocated for changing the ban, they have fought the FDA on this, more than this professor has anyway.

  21. andrew says

    If the chance of getting an HIV infection from blood is ZERO, I think they should end the ban. If it is not Zero, keep the ban in place. I am a gay man. If I needed a blood transfusion and you said I could have blood donated by a gay man or blood donated by a straight man; I would choose the straight man. I think that would put the odds of remaining HIV negative more in my favor.

  22. scientitian says

    Lol, any FDA function on campus? That not only encompasses clinical trials, but also research on any procedure or medication intended for human application. In addition, the distribution of any prescription or over the counter drug, cosmetics, dietary supplements, and nearly every commercially sold food product in the United States, as these are all regulated by the FDA. In light of this, I’d say his choice to specifically protest blood collection was probably the best way to maintain clarity.

  23. says

    I am glad to see so much interest in overturning the Gay Blood Ban. Towleroad is a leading news source on the issue. If anyone is seeking further information, please visit Saving Lives With Helpful Guys! (savingliveswithhelpfulguys.com) This website is an educational resource center for policy directors, civil rights activists, students, members of the medical community, and the public at large who are dedicated to safely and sensibly reforming the U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s Gay Blood Ban.

  24. SRB says

    @RandyOwen. You, like so many before you, are missing the point, and misunderstanding my comment. The Red Cross is actually engaging in acts of discrimination that the anti-discrimination policy of IU prohibits. Other FDA functions on campus likely do not. The protester is identifying a specific violation of university policy and making it explicit, drawing attention to it, and calling for the university to stop the Red Cross from operating on campus. By doing so, and encouraging other campuses and organizations to follow suit, the Red Cross would be forced to exert pressure on the FDA for a change in policy. A change that has already been recommended by a panel of experts.

  25. Marty says

    @Randy, you got me! I’m a modern-day Nazi apologist…. Honestly, you and that professor should get together and go bowling.

    Look, the policy is flawed, but regular and plentiful blood donation is critical to all of us. I have considered making hay about this on the campus where I work, but do not want to do ANYTHING to discourage anyone who can donate blood from donating blood. Imagine if protests like this were to become widespread, challenging front-line blood collectors and/or challenging the right for the Red Cross or others to collect blood when it conflicts with local non-discrimination policies. That would lead to disruptions in the always-low blood supply (blocking blood banks’ access to the community, or encouraging straights to refrain from donating as a form of protest), which would lead to deaths. That’s not an over-dramatization.

    I am an HIV- universal donor who happens to be gay. If I could, I would donate as often as I could. I hate the policy because it restricts me (and the rest of us) from saving lives, not because I need validation or to be shielded from discrimination. But even if you feel the latter (and I’m not faulting those who do), it should not be battled against in a way that could cost lives. Not a single person should die to make this change happen.

    BTW, @Mike8787, I really really like your post and its logic, but run your math again – I think you underestimate the number of unintentional HIV+ donations by a factor of 10. Not disagreeing with your overall point – Just saying, FYI.

  26. William says

    Just to add my two quarters (I would say my two cents; but, hey, inflation): I started donating blood when I was 13. That lasted until I was 17. From the beginning, I had to answer whether I had slept with some one of the same sex (amongst other questions). In the beginning, I was able to answer honestly and donate blood. Towards the end of my time donating blood, I had to start lying. Eventually, I got to the point where lying was pointless.

    I totally disagree with the policy that gays can’t donate blood and look forward to the day when I can return to donating blood. But I also understand that access to blood is, too often, a matter of life or death. While I want to see the policy changed, I would not even consider disrupting a blood drive to make my point. Lives are on the line.

  27. says

    How backwards, no wonder the United States is lagging behind other developed nations. In the Philippines, which is a third world Catholic country, sexual orientation is not even considered when donating blood. One person’s blood is as good as anyone else’s.

  28. MrRoboto says

    The reaction here to this has been largely ludicrous.

    What exactly is the difference between what this man did, and the actions of a student who attempted to enlist in the military via a campus ROTC outfit, in the days of DADT? Replace the Red Cross nurse with the recruitment officer, who is carrying out a policy of discrimination through his bosses (the military, the Defense Department and the federal government), and you have the exact same scenario.

    What exactly is the difference between what this man did, and a gay couple who went to their local county clerk’s office to register for a marriage license in a state/country where marriage equality is illegal? Replace the Red Cross nurse with the county clerk, who is carrying out a policy of discrimination through her bosses (the state and the federal government), and you have the exact same scenario.

    I could go on and on with these correlations, but the simple fact is this is grass roots activism 101. Good on this professor for having the guts to finally challenge this BS discrimination. If the nurse had ignored policy and put this man’s blood into the system, creating a crisis in the blood chain, good…it might finally result in this policy being seen for the outright bigotry and bad science it represents. If like-minded straights finally see that they’re inadvertently advocating bigotry and decide to stop donating blood, creating a crisis in the blood supply chain, good…it might finally result in this policy being seen for the outright bigotry and bad science it represents.

    If you’re fine with being discriminated against, then go right ahead and keep on referring to this smart activist for being a “drama queen.”

  29. Tom in long beach says

    The gay blood plan, just like marriage discrimination is based on fear and ignorance. When I was younger before I came out I donated frequently. I remembered the first time I was not allowed to donate and the shocked look the nurse volunteer gave me. Also a few years ago coworkers had a hard time understanding why I could not donate… The gay blood ban really is left in place because the FDA does not want to deal with peoples ignorance.

  30. MarkRocks says

    The comments from “Marty” are the same rationale used by bigots over the centuries to further discrimination. “This is for the greater good.” “We must take these steps to protect the entire population.” “These issues are more important than just a few.” “This is life and death.” Uh huh. It’s bigotry and discrimination.

    The simple, clear reality is this: HIV+ blood does not get into the blood supply because all blood is tested repeatedly. IV drug users lie regularly and donate blood. Those who’ve had unprotected heterosexual sex hundreds of time in a year donate blood. Those with predispositions to severe genetic disorders also get to give blood. Blood is tested for all of those problems.

    As others have stated, this is activism 101. Call the universities on their hypocrisy. Force change by cutting off the blood supply from colleges and universities, and you’ll see a change happen very, very quickly.

  31. Mike8787 says

    @Marty Thanks for the heads up — my error was in forgetting a decimal point in my statistics. There are in fact 1.2 million Americans living with HIV, not 12 million. That means the 42 years before an HIV+ false negative should still be correct.

  32. dj_gayburn says

    Common misconception:

    Police aren’t required to read you your miranda rights while being arrested, only if being questioned about a specific crime or interrogated. I tried using this as a defense the first time I got arrested because the cop didn’t read me my miranda rights. Needless to say the judge looked at me like a 20 year old idiot (in her defense I was a 20year old idiot)

  33. Marty says

    Mark rocks and mrroboto – never said I support the ban, far from it. It’s based on old science, it is completely unjustifiable due to better testing, it continues due to fear not science, and I want the ban to end today as much as you. I was simply stating the fact that activism of this form on a large scale will disrupt blood collection, and as a result, people will die. Not just bad people like me – Maybe even you.

    It’s really counterintuitive to why this policy needs to change. As mike8787 demonstrated, changing this policy will lead to millions of saved lives.

    Less discrimination against you and me is also a benefit, but it certainly comes in second, don’t you think?

    No, wait, you don’t think that – in fact by your logic I’m just a bigot who want this discrimination to continue. I must be self-loathing, right? There’s only one way to solve this problem, it’s your way, and anyone who disagrees is a bigot.

    Well, this poor bigot wants to know, since you know how activism is most effective, please inform us all how many people should die in order for this change to happen. I want specific numbers. Please, don’t tell me again how I’m a bigot of old, i know that’s what i am – just pin down a number for us.

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