Evan Low and the Latest Civil Rights Fight

Evan Low, mayor of Campbell, was recently asked by the Red Cross to host a blood drive in his city. The problem? Low is a gay, and gay men are banned from donating blood.

“It’s like hosting a party you are not invited to,” Low said.

The ban is an antiquated policy implemented in 1985 by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA). It was a reaction to the HIV/AIDS crisis in a time when the lack of knowledge, treatments and fear and hysteria caused widespread panic and concern for the nation’s blood supply.

Science, education and technology have since made the ban unnecessary. But like many outdated government policies, it continues to exist for no apparent reason. In an era when the blood supply is consistently low, as the Red Cross and other blood banks warn, the notion that we will ignorantly ban a cross-section of our population makes no sense.

Today’s technology has made testing easy and inexpensive. One can purchase a home HIV testing kit at a local drug store and know the results within ten minutes. Furthermore, due to improved testing methods, every batch of blood donated in the US is now tested for eight different diseases, including HIV.

But let’s be frank, the current policy is related to politics more the science. If gays can be designated as a threat to health, and therefore a threat to society, some will continue to rationalize their prejudice as justified.

But Low is having none of it. The gay civil rights movement has matured to a degree that delay is denial, and activists are not willing to wait for equal rights. It is the same strategy that was implemented by Martin Luther King Jr., which brought about the major institutional changes for civil rights for African-Americans in this country.

Institutional changes are happening now for the gay community, including anti-discrimination laws, anti-hate crime legislation and gay marriage. In coming generations, people will wonder why gays had to fight to achieve basic human rights. Those who object to equality will have the same image in history as Jefferson Davis and Gov. George Wallace—being on the wrong side of history lasts forever.

As for Low, he is young, bright and ambitious. You can add courageous to that description. He is willing to speak out on issues of conscience and he will not allow even revered institutions like the Red Cross to perpetuate policies based on ignorance and fear.

He has a bright future.

Rich Robinson is a political consultant in Silicon Valley.

Evan Low’s petition for Red Cross to change its restrictions blood donations.

Evan Low’s essay for 2013 Pride.

Rich Robinson is an attorney and political consultant in Silicon Valley. Opinions are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect those of San Jose Inside.


  1. It’s likely that the tests got better, and a governmental agency didn’t keep pace.  I understand why people want the policy changed, but I don’t believe there is necessarily any malevolent intent by the FDA.  In the end, good practices should prevail.

    Politician can help by asking the questions.  I think they can also hurt things by supplying the answers to the questions.

  2. The last time I pointed this out, you guys censored it, but let’s try again:

    Lots of hemophiliacs, and other people prone to needing multiple blood transfusions, were infected with HIV and died of AIDS during the early 1980s, because this stricture hadn’t yet been put in place.  Its a perfectly valid public health concern (gay & bisexual men are way, WAY more likely to be HIV+, as compared to straight men, particularly if IV drug users are excluded from the pool of straight men). Its amazing to me that grown adults think that some bizarre notion of “civil rights” is more important than keeping HIV out of the nation’s bloody supply.

    • Perfectly valid.  Transmission is much more likely between two males than it is even between an infected man and an uninfected woman.  Mayor Low should spend some time abroad volunteering in HIV/AIDS wards.  I don’t care what way a person swings but the truth pill needs to be swallowed no matter how hard it is to take. It’s not fair for the rest of the population to be put at risk.  Between viral incubation variances and the plain and simple propensity humans have to lie about their proclivities it’s simply not safe.  Mr. Low is trying to use a strawman argument to justify a horribly ignorant position.

      • “It’s not fair for the rest of the population to be put at risk”

        Nothing new here. Progressives routinely put the rest of the population at risk in the mindless pursuit of their ideology.

  3. Here’s the thing though, even if the ban is lifted, at best there will still be a ‘5 years without sexual contact’ requirement. This is the policy which has replaced the ban in other countries, and while it’s a nice symbolic gesture, is it realistic to expect that there will be a dramatic increase in donations with that stipulation?

    Without the stipulation, you run a significant risk of receiving blood that may be in HIV’s dormant stage. The requirements to donate blood also preclude many servicemen and women, those with tattoos and people residing in certain regions of the world during specific periods. While I don’t believe it’s right to discriminate with such a broad ban, there are clear reasons why these policies were instituted in each of these cases.

    While the message is a good one, the timing of this particular fight seems a bit … suspect. Remind me … there aren’t any big political races coming up which might require a … grander stand to delegate from are there?

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