The French government on Wednesday lifted the prohibition [press release, PDF, in French] on blood donations by gay men. French Minister of Social Affairs, Health and Women’s Rights Marisol Touraine [official website, in French], announced [statement, PDF, in French] that “[d]onating blood is an act of generosity, citizenship, which cannot be conditioned to sexual orientation. … Today we allow every citizen, regardless of sexual orientation, the right to give blood. Thus we are marking a new step in the fight against all forms of discrimination, especially sexual.” The ban was initially in place to prevent the spread of diseases such as HIV, but had long been condemned as discriminatory. The integration of gay men into the blood donation regime will occur in a two-phase process. Phase 1, occurring in Spring 2016, will allow blood donations by men who have not had intimate relations with other men in the past four months or who have had only one sexual partner. Phase 2, occurring over the next 12 months, will consist of studies by health officials on the safety of the blood. If there are no health risks discovered, gay men will be allowed to give blood while following the general policies set for all other potential donors.
Bans on blood donations from homosexual individuals has garnered international debate and attention. The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) [official website] released a proposed set of guidelines [text, PDF] in May to put into practice their plan [press release] announced in late 2014 to end the practice [JURIST report] of indefinitely banning men who have ever engaged in sexual acts with other men from donating blood. In April the European Court of Justice restricted bans [JURIST report] on blood donors to only strict instances. In 2013 a Northern Ireland judge ruled [JURIST report] that the Health Minister could not continue to enforce the lifetime ban on gay men donating blood, calling the law “irrational.” The UK Department of Health [official website] announced in 2011 that it would lift the lifetime ban [JURIST report] on blood donations from men who have had sex with other men. An Ontario Superior Court [official website] judge ruled in September 2010 that the Canadian Blood Services (CBS) is justified [JURIST report] in prohibiting sexually active gay males from donating blood on the grounds that the CBS discriminates on the basis of health and safety considerations rather than on sexual orientation.