Brazil’s Supreme Court has overturned rules that limit gay and bisexual men from donating blood in a decision considered a human rights victory for LGBT+ people in the country.
The move came as more nations review restrictions on blood donations imposed during the 1980s HIV/AIDS crisis, with some countries imposing blanket bans, some waiting periods after gay sex, and others – like Italy – having no limitations at all.
After almost four years in court, seven of 11 Supreme Court justices voted on Friday in favor of overthrowing guidelines that barred men who had sex with other men from giving blood for 12 months, ending any waiting time.
The Supreme Court said the ban was unconstitutional as it imposed restrictions on gay and bisexual men, backing Supreme Court Minister Edson Fachin who argued this offended the basic human dignity of gay and bisexual men.
“Instead of the state enabling these people to promote good by donating blood, it unduly restricts solidarity based on prejudice and discrimination,” wrote Fachin in his vote.
The decision comes after several nations have relaxed rules on blood donations in recent weeks as supplies face mounting pressure due to the coronavirus pandemic.
The United States, Denmark and Northern Ireland have all changed the rules so men can give blood three months after their latest gay sexual encounter rather than wait for one year, a policy LGBT+ campaigners have long decried as discriminatory.
Many countries introduced blood donation controls in the wake of the HIV/AIDS epidemic in the 1980s when infected blood, donated by drug users and prisoners, contaminated supplies.
But the issue has increasingly become a totem of continued stigma against LGBT+ people, with campaigners saying individual assessments of sexual history and risk for all potential blood donors would be safer and fairer.
In Brazil the case reached the Supreme Court in 2016, but it took until 2020 for a majority to be reached.
Minister Alexandre de Moraes, one of the four who voted against overthrowing the ban imposed by the Ministry of Health, argued that the waiting period was not discriminatory but based on technical studies.
For LGBT+ activists, the ruling was celebrated as a victory in a country where same-sex marriage is legal but LGBT+ people often face discriminatory government policies.
“A historical victory for the LGBT population! And the measure benefits everyone who needs donations, as blood stocks are almost always insufficient,” wrote federal politician Samia Bomfim on Twitter after the decision.