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Posts for February, 2016

Happy Chinese New Year

Timothy Kincaid

February 8th, 2016

Year of Monkey

To celebrate the new year, I’ve included a poster designed by Lehu Zhang, a San Francisco based Chinese graphic designer. This year is the Year of the Monkey.

While I appreciate Zhang’s minimalist style, clearly we have different esthetics. I’m having trouble seeing the monkey.

Anyway, however, you celebrate, here’s wishing you a happy new year. I think I’m celebrating with kung pao chicken and hot and sour soup.

Greenland’s marriage equality finally passes last hurdle

Timothy Kincaid

February 5th, 2016

GreenlandIceberg

Last May I noted that Greenland’s legislature had passed marriage equality. At that time I believed that it was to take effect October 1, 2015. I was mistaken. It seems that some law in Denmark needed changing.

But all that is done now. (Perchy Bird)

Following unanimous approval in both the Greenlandic and Danish Parliaments, the same-sex marriage and adoption bill was given the ceremonial Royal Assent on Wednesday.

The island’s new Civil Code will become gender-neutral and couples will begin marrying the day the law comes into force on April 1st. Greenland’s Bishop had been looking forward to couples being allowed to marry in the local Church since the bill was first proposed in 2014.

Ex-Gay therapy moves to Israel

Timothy Kincaid

February 4th, 2016

The United States has become increasingly unwelcome towards organizations that purport to change sexual orientation or, as they often couch it, to increase masculinity and resolve unwanted homosexual attractions. Some states have banned such practices if directed towards youth.

Famously, Jewish ex-gay group JONAH (Jews offering New Alternatives to Healing) was ordered out of existence in December 2015. But it appears that they could find a much more welcoming attitude were they to set up shop in the Levant.

Israel is by a long long shot the most advanced nation in the Middle East when it comes to gay issues. But it also has a very strong religious community in which opposition to homosexuality is fierce.

An article in Philly.com does not take up JONAH, directly, but discusses how other ex-gay groups fare in Israel.

At least four men’s support groups meet weekly in Jerusalem, said Jerusalem psychotherapist Adam Jessel, who has worked with hundreds of people looking to overcome their homosexuality. Some Israeli organizations also promote therapy.

The U.S. group People Can Change runs a seminar in Israel, the U.S. and Europe called Journey Into Manhood, which it says helps men “resolve unwanted homosexual attractions.” About 50 men participated in a seminar last month at a confidential location in northern Israel.

My apologies to the people of Israel. At this point in history, we do seem to export our worst attributes around the world.

PrEP use 90% higher than last estimated

Timothy Kincaid

February 4th, 2016

truvadaLast month, AIDS Healthcare Foundation issued a smirking attack on the Centers for Disease Control, mocking the low number of people who are availing themselves of pre-exposure prophylaxis.

“…according to CDC only 21,000 people are on the drug in the United States. Any objective observer has to conclude that most patients don’t want to take Truvada and doctors are not recommending it.”

Although there are dozens of references to this estimate, I have not yet been able to find the source. However most appear to be in November 2015, and use language like “currently” to discuss the number of total participants.

But, irrespective of the exact date in which 21,000 was a valid estimate, it certainly is no longer so. The following is from Gilead’s Quarter Four 2015 conference call which took place on Tuesday:

Public health programs to prevent HIV transmission are also underway, including efforts to raise awareness about the use of Truvada for prep. Today more than 40,000 patients in the US are receiving Truvada for a preventative indication.

In other words, PrEP use is about 90% higher than when last reported/estimated.

I very much doubt that participation doubled in the last two months. Likely, the estimates were based on older data and were understated to begin with.

But I do think that this illustrates something that I’ve observed and which I’ve heard discussed; It appears to me that there is a very sharp upturn in people becoming aware of the benefits of PrEP and choosing to avail themselves of this added protection from HIV. There is a cultural upswell which has changed the issue from fear to hope.

There have been several pivotal moments in the fight against the HIV/AIDS pandemic. The identification of the virus in the 80’s allowed for the first wave of protection, condoms. The discovery of anti-retroviral treatment in the mid 90’s, with it’s every increasing fine-tuning made the fight one about the value of life, not about survival. As viral loads became undetectable, Treatment as Prevention (TasP) became the next wave of protection and transmission prevention.

I believe that PrEP is equally revolutionary. This is the third moment in the fight which we will look back upon as there being a before-PrEP and after-PrEP way of life. This is the first time in the lives of many gay men my age in which there is no longer a component of fear in every sexual encounter.

Good news from DC

Timothy Kincaid

February 3rd, 2016

Over the past several years, the city government of Washington, DC, has dedicated itself to a comprehensive and concerted effort to reduce the number of new infections of the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV). It appears that the effort is working. (Blade)

A preliminary version of the city’s annual HIV/AIDS Surveillance Report shows that newly reported HIV cases in D.C. during 2014 declined for the seventh consecutive year.

The report, which the D.C. Department of Health released on Tuesday, shows there were 396 new HIV cases in 2014, a 29 percent decrease from the 553 new cases reported in 2013.

Whitman-Walker Executive Director Don Blanchon said the declining number of new HIV infections in D.C. reflects the value of community wide testing, treatment on demand and prevention efforts that include pre-exposure prophylaxis or PrEP, which involves providing a daily “prevention pill” to people who are HIV negative.

“Simply put, it is saving peoples’ lives and reducing new infections,” he said. “Today’s update reaffirms that we are on the right path to getting to zero new infections in a given year.”

We appear to now be in possession of the tools that we need to end the HIV/AIDS pandemic. Combining testing with TasP (Treatment as Prevention) and PrEP (pre-exposure prophylaxis) and treating the virus as a public health matter instead of a behavioral matter are the steps that are working in the nation’s capital. As the social acceptance of PrEP increases (as it has tremendously in Los Angeles over the past year), we should expect to see even more improvement in the upcoming year.

Congratulations, Washington!

HSBC bank wants you to plan for your life together

Timothy Kincaid

February 1st, 2016

HSBC
We have reached the place where the benefit of being seen as supporting equality far outweighs any disgruntlement from social conservatives. Sure the handful of men who call themselves One Million Moms will likely protest, but everyone else – including those who think as they do – will either smile or shrug and go on with their lives.

Corporations, who spend big bucks on market research, know this well. Perhaps someone ought to let the GOP presidential candidates in on the secret.

(thanks to Ben for the tip)

Marriage in Mexico – update and Jalisco victory

Timothy Kincaid

January 26th, 2016

Map Mexico statesMexico’s same-sex marriage status is complicated.

Marriages occurring anywhere in the country are recognized throughout. So, since December 2009 when Mexico City legislators voted for marriage equality, same-sex couples could travel to the capital and have their relationship recognized upon their return.

However, other than in six states, locally conducted same-sex marriage is illegal. But these are not laws without a solution. A couple can go to court and request an amparo (a sort of civil rights ruling) which states that the law is unconstitutional and which would allow that couple (but only that couple) to marry.

The outcome is assured; the Supreme Court has established that all such efforts result in approval of the marriage. So any same-sex couple can marry in any state – though it takes a lawyer, about $1,000, and a month to go through the legal process.

Additionally, after five identical amparos have been granted in one state, precedent is set and that state then will recognize same-sex marriages without any need for additional amparos. So for about $5,000 per state (about $125,000 total) and less than a year, marriage equality could be universal across the nation. Considering that in the US the legal battle cost tens of millions of dollars, this is a bargain and activists are implementing a plan to grind through the ampero process.

Meanwhile states are individually chugging along towards equality, some through non-amparo means. Currently Mexico has six equality states (out of 31):

Quintana Roo (Cancun) – In December 2011, local officials realized that the law did not mention the gender of those seeking marriage and that there was no restriction on same-sex couples.

Coahuila – In September 2014, Coahuila became the first state to enact marriage equality by means of legislative vote.

Chihuahua (Juarez) – By mid 2013, the required five amparos had been issued. The state legislature did not act, and couples asked the Supreme Court to order the state to comply. So as to avoid such a ruling, in June 2015 the governor announced that the state would no longer enforce the unconstitutional law.

Guerrero (Acapulco) – also in June 2015, the governor of Guerrero announced that it would not enforce the marriage ban. This was proactive as the state had not processed five amparos. The governor has presented a bill to the state legislature to change the law.

Nayarit – In late December 2015, the legislature voted 26 to 1 in favor of marriage equality.

Jalisco (Guadalajara) – today. This one is a pinch more complicated. Whenever a state law is published in Mexico, opponents have 30 days to file an action of unconstitutionality with the federal courts. Jalisco had recently made an unrelated change in its marriage laws and had republished the marriage code. This opened a window in which activists could challenge the limitations as to gender. The Supreme Court heard the case and today ruled 11 to 0 that Jalisco’s ban on same-sex marriage is unconstitutional.

AHF exports opposition to PrEP to the UK

Timothy Kincaid

January 22nd, 2016

In the United Kingdom, PrEP is not yet available through the National Health Service, the nationally subsidized health care system. This means that those people choosing to protect themselves from potential HIV infection by use of pre-exposure prophylaxis must do so out-of-pocket.

The NHS is considering approval of Truvada for PrEP and the BBC ran a newsnight special about this consideration. Supporting making PrEP available was Dr Michael Brady from the Terrence Higgins Trust. And, as it appears that the only opponents to PrEP-based HIV prevention on the globe may be the AIDS Healthcare Foundation, speaking in keeping PrEP unavailable was Jed Kensley, senior director of the AIDS Healthcare Foundation.

Kensley presented absolutely no logic or justification for his position. He just stated it and then tried to talk about people using it contrary to the guidelines of the US FDA (which, as far as I know, does not dictate UK policy).

There is no reason for AHF to interfere in UK policy. Except to try and discourage any further acceptance of PrEP overseas which could, in turn, encourage use in the US.

And as much as AHF claims that it supports PrEP for those “who have multiple partners and never use condoms”, they went on BBC to support the NHS’ policy of providing PrEP to no one at all. Tis far better, in the minds of the directors of AHF, that those “who have multiple partners and never use condoms” in the UK continue at risk for seroconversion than that someone who uses condoms – well, most of the time – has the chance to protect themselves further.

The more I hear from AHF, the harder it is for me to believe that they want people to stay uninfected.

AHF files complaint against Gilead

Timothy Kincaid

January 21st, 2016

michaelEarlier this month, AIDS Healthcare Foundation and its president Michael Weinstein issued a press release accusing Gilead of creating a direct-to-consumer advertisement which encouraged situational PrEP use in violation of FDA guidelines.

As we illustrated, it was filled with falsehoods and insinuation and made claims that even at the most casual glance proved to be false.

Well now AHF has gone one step further. They’ve issued a letter of complaint against the maker of pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP).

On Thursday, AHF sent a letter to Dr. Stephen Ostroff, M.D., Acting Commissioner of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), alerting him to the fact that Gilead financed a video ad campaign promoting situational use of its AIDS treatment, Truvada, for PrEP, misleading viewers into believing that Truvada is safe and effective for use on a situational basis, despite knowing that the drug is not FDA approved for such off-label use.

Box Turtle Bulletin, along with other sources, has debunked AHF’s claims. Frankly, it just wasn’t that hard.

So why does Weinstein and his organization continue a campaign of deception? I think there is a purpose behind the complaint.

As anyone who actually watched the video knows, it did not promote off-label use. And it wasn’t launched by Gilead. So that’s not the issue. AHF knows that their letter does not reveal any wrongdoing and I don’t think that’s their intent.

Rather I suspect that Weinstein is hoping that the theme of the video (“I like to party”) will frighten the FDA and will elicit a fear based response along the lines of “you can’t promote drug use!!!”

This isn’t about truthful marketing, it’s about punishing Gilead and hindering the advancement of Truvada as a tool against the spread of HIV. And if Weinstein can imply that Gilead tacitly supports the use of illicit drugs, that might be sufficient to push politicians to apply pressure.

So this is where Weinstein’s recommendations for punishing Gilead become interesting:

In contravention of statute and regulations, Gilead launched an ad campaign to mislead viewers into believing that Truvada is safe and effective for use on a situational basis despite knowing that the drug is not approved for such use. Consequently, the ad campaign constitutes impermissible off-label promotion, and we urge the FDA to take immediate action to (1) require Gilead to cease and desist all such off-label promotion; (2) require Gilead to publically [sic] correct the misinformation disseminated by the ad campaign; and (3) impose any sanctions permitted by law.

But Gilead hasn’t performed any off-label promotion which it can cease or desist. And sanctions would not hold up in any court. So what would this mean in practical terms?

A clue is found earlier in the press release:

Gilead, which we believe has been deliberately mounting an under-the-FDA-radar, guerilla-style marketing and media campaign for PrEP for the past three years by funding scores of community and AIDS groups across the nation to promote PrEP…”

AHF wants to put pressure on Gilead to cease funding other community and AIDS groups. Yes, it appears that Weinstein and AHF want to reduce the funds that community groups across the country use to fight transmission and treat those infected with HIV. That is unthinkable, but that is what they are asking.

And as despicable as this seems, it might not to be a novel attitude for AHF. They have been accused by many AIDS activists of a long pattern of seeking to diminish funding for other groups so as to funnel more funds, more program support, more connections, and more political power to AHF and Weinstein.

And as it is primarily community based HIV activists who are encouraging and driving the effort to get those persons at high risk for HIV transmission on the preventative drug regimen, these are the voices that Weinstein and AHF need most to silence in order for their campaign against PrEP-based HIV prevention to succeed. That these local activists are the front-line warriors in the fight against the HIV pandemic is immaterial, and the message seems clear: they must be taught that standing up against Weinstein and AHF comes with consequences.

I’m beginning to think that “vile” and “abhorrent” are adjectives that need a revival.

Mobile Alabama reopens marriage license window

Timothy Kincaid

January 8th, 2016

On Wednesday, following Alabama Chief Justice Roy Moore’s pronouncement that no marriage licenses can be issued to same-sex couples in the state, Mobile County stopped issuing marriage licenses altogether. Now they have resumed. (Fox6News)

The Mobile County Probate Court will re-open marriage license windows Friday morning, Mobile County Probate Judge Don Davis said in a statement.

Davis’ statement says, “In an abundance of caution, the Court wanted an opportunity to review the order, and to have legal counsel research the matter. The Court is now satisfied, on the advice of counsel, that the appropriate action is to open the window and resume issuance of marriage license.

Poor Alabama. It’s a sad state of affairs when the state’s judicial officers just ignore the instruction of the state’s Chief Justice.

Michael Weinstein doubles down on “PrEP = Party Drug”; lies about video

Timothy Kincaid

January 8th, 2016

Public Health Solutions is a NYC based non-profit that performs both research and outreach on public health matters. As part of their focus, they support the increased use of pre-exposure prophylaxis as a prevention for the transmission of HIV.

A couple of months ago, Public Health Solutions uploaded three videos to their YouTube channel; one about PrEP and love, one targeting African-American men, and one targeting young men who party. The videos were part of a video intended to drive high-risk individuals into a clinical survey.

Here is “I Like to Party”:

Although the visuals of the video only show drinking in a bar, the implied message is that some young men use substances as a part of sex. And, indeed, the video campaign deviser said as much. (HuffPo)

The “Time2PrEP” campaign from Public Health Solutions is a series of video shorts that talks to different individuals across the queer spectrum about their experiences with PrEP and why they utilize the groundbreaking medication. Kenny Neal Shults of ConnectedHealthSolutions.com told The Huffington Post:

“When we sat down to consider the best audiences for the campaigns we knew only one thing for certain — we wanted to address gay men who might fall under the puritanical ‘Truvada Whore’ classification. That is, we wanted to reach men whose sexual and recreational drug behaviors both put them at a greater risk for both contracting HIV and being stigmatized for even considering going on PrEP. It seemed obvious to us that judging the men who could benefit most from PrEP for the behaviors that we think they should abandon and replace with consistent, unfaltering condom use was not our job. Our goal as HIV prevention professionals is to reduce HIV infections, and to communicate to those at high risk that they don’t deserve to be punished with HIV for ‘misbehaving.’ I mean, that’s the tacit implication of these reactionary pulpit platforms isn’t it; you either use a condom every time — behave — or you’re shamed and set apart from the rest of the community.”

michaelToday it seems that Michael Weinstein of AIDS Healthcare Foundation has become aware of the video. And he’s decided to use it to further his attack on PrEP and those who use it. And, as seems consistent with Weinstein, his statement is long on accusation and short on facts.

AHF’s press release starts with a statement that is shockingly lacking in truth.

In what looks to be the first direct-to-consumer drug advertising paid for by Gilead Sciences, Inc. for use of its AIDS treatment, Truvada, as pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) to prevent HIV infection in non-infected individuals, Gilead has paid for an ad that violates Food and Drug Administration (FDA) guidelines for PrEP by promoting off-label use of the drug by encouraging situational PrEP use for those who “… like to party.”

Oh so many lies.

First this is not a direct-to-customer drug advertising. It is an online video by a non-profit organization that never ever mentions the name of any drug.

Next, the video was not “paid for by Gilead Sciences, Inc.”, or not in the sense that Weinstein claims. Mary Ann Chiasson, the Vice President, Research and Evaluation at Public Health Solutions clarified.

As the Project Director, I can set the record straight. The time2prep project was funded by a grant from Gilead for educational videos about PrEP targeted to high risk men who have sex with men in New York City. The videos were designed to be provocative and to encourage men to go the New York City Department of Health PrEP/PEP website to learn more. Gilead played no role whatsoever in determining the content of the videos. In fact, I’m not sure anyone at Gilead has ever even seen the videos.

But the big lie, the heinous smarmy lie is this: “…an ad that violates Food and Drug Administration (FDA) guidelines for PrEP by promoting off-label use of the drug by encouraging situational PrEP use…” Further in the press release, Weinstein states,

When I referred to PrEP as a party drug two years ago, it created a nationwide scandal. Now Gilead—in what looks to be its first official paid advertising for Truvada as PrEP—explicitly promotes PrEP as a party drug for situational use in direct violation of FDA regulations. This is illegal and we will seek to hold them accountable for their irresponsible and illegal advertising,” said Michael Weinstein, President of AIDS Healthcare Foundation, which has criticized and cautioned against the widespread deployment of PrEP as a community-wide public health strategy, such as the CDC’s recommendation that 1.2 million individuals go on PrEP, but supports its use on a case-by-case basis decided upon between a medical provider and his or her patient.

If indeed this was a promotion of PrEP for situational use, rather than as part of a daily regimen, that would be in violation of FDA regulations. The FDA has approved Truvada for PrEP under certain conditions. While I would certainly phrase some of these requirement differently, AHF’s press release lists them:

Guidelines issued by the FDA for PrEP for individuals include 1) an initial baseline negative HIV test; 2) daily adherence to the Truvada medication; 3) ongoing periodic HIV testing to ensure the individual on PrEP remains HIV-negative; and 4) continued use of other prevention methods, such as condoms.

AHF’s points 1 and 3 cannot be determined one way or another from the video. But we can clearly see whether the video promotes daily adherence and condoms.

At 0:03 JD Phoenix (a young porn actor) reaches for items on his counter as he heads to a bar. They consist of condoms, lube, his keys and a baggie with pills of some sort (it is not clear as to the nature of the pills). From this we conclude that condoms are a part of Phoenix’s sexual encounters.

At 0:21 Phoenix’ alarm goes off on his phone informing him that it’s “time to prep!” He then reaches for a daily pill organizer and takes that day’s blue pill. From this it is clear that Phoenix is on daily adherence to the drug.

So Weinstein’s claims about “situational use” appear to be false. And his threat about “holding accountable” seem nothing more than empty threats used to bolster his own implied moral superiority.

And, of course, Weinstein couldn’t pass up the opportunity to portray himself as a great prophet:

It now appears AHF President Michael Weinstein made a prophetic comment to an Associated Press reporter in April 2014 when he offhandedly referred to PrEP as a “… party drug.” Since then, both he and AHF have been repeatedly and harshly criticized by the gay and AIDS communities for the observation, while Gilead itself now funds and promotes party use of Truvada as PrEP in violation of the law and FDA regulation.

Neither Gilead nor anyone else is promoting “party use” of Truvada as PrEP in this video. Or certainly not more than the other two videos promoted “black use” or “love use.” It’s a video targeting a high-risk community. That’s all.

But Weinstein has latched only the word “party” and sees it as validation for his opposition to PrEP. He objects to the idea that people who use drugs might use Truvada to allow them to have unfettered sex. Naughty dirty drug-induced porn star sex. And it’s “irresponsible” for Gilead, or anyone else, to help these party sex people remain HIV negative.

It’s hard to ignore the implications of Weinstein’s position. If party people shouldn’t proactively protect themselves from HIV transmission, does that mean that they deserve what they get? Is HIV the wages of sin?

And, really, it seems to me that this is what is behind Weinstein’s campaign of shame, it’s all about demonizing people who have sex in ways of which Weinstein disapproves.

And I don’t think the prophet reference is casual. I think that is how he sees himself, as a great moral leader casting down as whores and riffraff those who oppose him and declaring the one and only true and holy way to have sex.

Petulant Tennessee judge reprimanded

Timothy Kincaid

January 6th, 2016

AthertonLast year Mr. and Mrs. Bumgardner decided that they just weren’t all into the marriage thing anymore and decided to call it quits. Unfortunately for them, their divorce was assigned to Judge Jeffrey Atherton of Chattanooga.

Judge Atherton was really quite upset that the US Supreme Court had ruled that gay people have all the same rights as other people and threw a little fit. If gay people could get married then, well, he’s show them. He’d write a petulant and whiny little ruling taking it out on the Bumgardners.

Although this Court has some vague familiarity with the governmental theories of democracy, republicanism, socialism, fascism, theocracy, and even despotism, implantation of this apparently new “super-federal-judicial” form of benign and benevolent government, termed “kryptocracy” by some and “judi-idiocracy” by others, with its iron fist and limp wrist, represents quite a challenge for a state level trial court. In any event, it should be noted that the victory of personal rights and liberty over the intrusion of state government provided by the majority opinion in Obergefell is held by this Court to have divested subject matter jurisdiction from this Court when a divorce is contested. Individuals, at least according to the majority opinion, are apparently authorized (along with the federal judiciary) to define when a marriage begins and, accordingly, ends, (without the pesky intervention/intrusion of a state court) leaving irreconcilable divorces under Tenn. Code Ann. § 36-4-101 (11), Tenn. Code Ann. § 36-4-103, and perhaps even Tenn. Code Ann. § 36-4-129 to some degree (but only when the grounds and/or irreconcilable differences are stipulated), intact and within the jurisdiction of this Court to address.

Nah nah nah nah nah! Go ask the limp-wristed Supreme Court to divorce you!

Yeah… no.

Judge Atherton (you homophobic bigot), you can consider yourself publicly reprimanded.

Alabama’s Roy Moore blusters some more

Timothy Kincaid

January 6th, 2016

bama2015 was Alabama’s year in the spotlight.

On January 23, Judge Callie Granade found that Alabama’s anti-gay marriage ban violated the Equal Protections and Due Process provisions of the US Constitution. A few weeks later the Eleventh Circuit – and the US Supreme Court – denied stay on the ruling and marriages began.

On February 8, Alabama State Supreme Court Chief Justice Roy Moore issued a pronouncement instructing the state’s probate judges to ignore the Federal Court ruling, the Eleventh Circuit’s response, and the refusal of stay by the Supreme Court of the United States and to instead deny marriage certificates to same-sex couples. He threatened to sic the governor on any who didn’t comply.

On February 10, Alabama Governor Robert Bentley (R) said he wasn’t playing that game. “I don’t want Alabama to be seen as it was 50 years ago when a federal law was defied. I’m not going to do that. I’m trying to move this state forward.”

Mobile County Probate Judge Don Davis felt that he was stuck between two ruling and didn’t want to defy either court. He requeste that the state Supreme Court “clarify” Moore’s pronouncement. They declined. Upon suit by Mobile county residents, Judge Granade ordered Davis to issue licenses.

Over the next month, probate judges in all but about a dozen counties began issuing licenses.

But on March 4, the Alabama State Supreme Court announced that the US Constitution’s Equal Protections and Due Process provisions do not provide equal protections for them sinning homosexuals.

As it has done for approximately two centuries, Alabama law allows for “marriage” only between one man and one woman. Alabama probate judges have a ministerial duty not to issue any marriage license contrary to this law. Nothing in the United States Constitution alters or overrides this duty.

The one exception was for Judge Davis, who had been specifically ordered by Grenade to issue licenses to four couples. They conceded that he could do that. Or, at least, he could tell them why they should let him do so.

Davis responded by requesting that be be exempt from the state ruling, but the Bama court wasn’t having it. They insisted he issue no more same-sex marriage licenses. Davis then turned to Judge Granade and requested that now that he had issued those licenses as ordered, he be allowed to deny future requests. Grenade also said no, he must comply with the US Constitution.

So, having been told that he cannot discriminate and that he must discriminate, Davis shut down the marriage license office in Mobile County to everyone.

Seeing that the state Supreme Court and several county judges were pretending to misunderstand Granade’s ruling and acting as though it only applied to four couples, marriage supporters appealed to make the case class action. On May 21, Granade agreed and applied her ruling to all 68 probate judges in the state. However, she stayed her ruling until the Supreme Court could rule on marriage equality (the case was already on their calendar).

On June 3, the state House voted to eliminate state marriage licenses altogether. But the next day the state Senate voted down that proposal.

On June 26, the US Supreme Court ruled in Obergefell v. Hodges that the fundamental right to marry is guaranteed to same-sex couples by both the Due Process Clause and the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution. On July 1, Granade clarified that her ruling now applied to all probate judges in Alabama (“by the language set forth in the order, the preliminary injunction is now in effect and binding on all members of the Defendant Class.”)

And same-sex marriages resumed in Alabama.

In September, the House again sought to eliminate marriage licenses, but again the Senate did not play along. So everything was assumed to be settled. Until today. (AL.com)

Chief Justice Roy Moore issued an order today saying that a ruling issued last March by the Alabama Supreme Court remains in effect and that probate judges “have a ministerial duty not to issue any marriage license contrary” to Alabama’s law and constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage.

In a four-page administrative order, Moore said the conflict between the state court ruling and the U.S. Supreme Court ruling in June has caused “confusion and uncertainty” among probate judges.

No. Most people know full well that federal rulings trump Moore’s opinions. There’s no confusion and no uncertainty.

But Moore is trying the same thing he did with Granade, claiming that the Supreme Court ruling applies only to the four states in that specific suit. Even though even the lowliest of junior clerks in Joe’s Law Shack and Auto Body Repair know that if SCOTUS doesn’t offer certiorari to a case, and if their ruling on related cases confirm the judge’s ruling, then that ruling stands.

Most counties will likely ignore Moore. But Judge Davis appears to have given up. (Buzzfeed)

Nonetheless, Moore’s move has stopped marriage licenses in at least one county. Mobile County Probate Judge Don Davis — who had been caught between the conflicting state and federal court orders last year — stopped issuing marriage licenses altogether on Wednesday afternoon.

“Well, we have closed,” Russell Davidson, a supervisor of the court’s division that handles marriage licenses, told BuzzFeed News. “At this time, we are not issuing any licenses until further notice.”

I suspect that won’t take long.

Greek parliament votes for civil unions

Timothy Kincaid

December 24th, 2015

europeABC.net.au

Greece’s parliament has approved a bill granting same-sex couples the right to a civil union, becoming one of the last European countries to give them legal recognition after years of opposition from the influential Orthodox church.

The bill does not include adoption rights and may have other deficiencies.

FDA changes blood donation ban

Timothy Kincaid

December 22nd, 2015

givebloodSince 1983 the Food and Drug Administration has forbidden any man who had ever had sex with another man – even once – since 1977 from donating blood, out of fear of transmitting the Human Immunodeficiency Virus. And while that made sense in 1983, for many years that has been a policy based on fear and stereotype instead of science.

All blood donated is tested for bloodborne pathogens, including HIV. And current tests allow detection of an HIV infection as recently as nine days after exposure.

Considering that men who have sex with men continue to account for over half of all new HIV infections, it does not seem unreasonable for there to be some waiting period after a sexual encounter for a gay man to donate blood in many instances, just to be certain that he hasn’t been infected too recently to have tests identify the virus.

But forty-seven years is an excessive amount of time to wait.

Several other nations – including the United Kingdom, Australia, New Zealand, Finland, and Japan – have all revised their restrictions to a much smaller abstinence window, most selecting one year. Now the United States has followed suit. (Washington Post)

The Food and Drug Administration on Monday lifted a decades-old, lifetime ban on blood donation for men who have had sex with other men, replacing it with a 12-month “deferral” period that prohibits such donors from giving blood for a year after their last same-sex contact.

The agency said its updated policy reflects “the most current scientific evidence” and mirrors the approach taken in other countries, such as Australia and the United Kingdom. “We have taken great care to ensure this policy revision is backed by sound science and continues to protect our blood supply,” FDA Acting Commissioner Stephen Ostroff said in a statement.

I don’t agree that this reflects “the most current scientific evidence”. It seems to me that a much shorter window – maybe a few weeks or a month – could be utilized with the same level of protection. It also seems to me that a person on PrEP would present no risk to the blood supply irrespective of their most recent sexual experience. As would those in monogamous relationships in which neither party is HIV+.

But this is a step in the right direction. And the FDA has said that it is a “first step” and is likely to evolve. Let’s hope the next step reflects individual risk assessment. Let’s also hope that it comes a bit sooner than 23 years.

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