McGreevey violated rules when he donated blood

 

By TOM BALDWIN, Gannett State Bureau, 

From the Courier Post ONLINE, November 16, 2004

 

TRENTON -- Gay former Gov. James E. McGreevey donated blood despite clear public-health rules saying his alternative lifestyle made him ineligible.

But McGreevey at the time, almost two years ago, camouflaged his homosexuality behind his second marriage.  It was not until 18 months later, last August, when he revealed he is gay and had "an adult consensual affair with another man."

By then, any donated blood would have vanished into the blood-bank system, according to the American Red Cross, which conducted the blood drive in the State House Annex with McGreevey in February 2003.

McGreevey was dogged since the early 1990s by rumors he was gay but always dismissed such questions as ridiculous.  In August, his aides said the affair had been with former homeland security adviser Golan Cipel, whom McGreevey has said he met in 2000.

Many gay groups find the blood-donor exclusion offensive because it presumes indiscriminate sex.

"We've been fighting that. ... It is one of the points that irritates us," said John Campbell, a spokesman for the New Brunswick-based Gay and Lesbian Political Action and Support Groups, called GayPASG.

Campbell said he and his partner of 15 years had been denied the opportunity to donate even when employers offered awards and prizes in a blood drive.

For McGreevey to have donated blood would directly clash with "Donor Eligibility Guidelines" of the Red Cross, which are based largely on federal guidelines.

 

They read, "Those who are at increased risk for becoming infected with HIV are not eligible to donate blood.  According to the Food and Drug Administration, you are at increased risk if:  You are a male who has had sex with another male since 1977, even once."

The list has other disqualifications, such as being from assorted African nations or if one has used needles to inject unprescribed drugs.

On a cold day in February 2003, McGreevey led a blood-donor campaign in the State House annex.  The then-jocular McGreevey strode into the annex slapping backs and waving, but then McGreevey, rarely one to miss a photo opportunity, told reporters he sought to donate in private.

Though it appeared possible McGreevey -- mindful of what then remained a personal secret -- could have wanted privacy to avoid donating, his former spokeswoman, Kathy Ellis, insisted McGreevey gave blood, saying she was on the table right next to him.

"All I can do is confirm that the governor gave blood," Ellis said.

McGreevey was not available for comment Monday, his last day in office.

Reaction to the governor's behavior was marked mostly by concern and some anger, though lawmakers who are physicians and dentists assured the blood supplies could not so easily be tainted.

"The real question is whether he was forthright," said Assemblyman Eric Munoz, R-Summit, who is a physician.  He was referring to a detailed list of questions a donor must answer, including whether they have experienced gay sex.

"They have better ways of screening the donations now.  That doesn't mean that everyone is now screened," Munoz said.

Another lawmaker who is a physician, Assemblyman Herbert C. Conaway Jr., D-Burlington City, said, "It doesn't concern me because it was tested."

Assemblyman Robert L. Morgan, D-Monmouth, also a physician, said:  "I have full confidence in the safety of the blood supply."

"It's obviously a violation of the rule," said Sen. Gerald Cardinale, R-Bergen, a dentist.  "But I would question that ruling" because testing is so good.

"I would hope if he gave blood, he provided honest answers to the questions, in that the blood could be destroyed," said Assemblyman Richard A. Merkt, R-Morris.

Many lawmakers chose not to comment on this story.

John Tomicki, executive director for the League of American Families, a socially conservative organization, said, "I think he had a duty not to give. ... Who has he put at risk? And what does he plan to do about it?"

Red Cross spokeswoman said the group has a policy for when they learn a donor is gay.  She said the Red Cross tries to destroy the donation, then tries to contact the person to discuss the issue "if we can reach them."

 

Governorís Office Conducts Blood Drive with Red Cross

Governor McGreevey donates blood at a Governor's Office Blood Drive conducted to help ease a nationwide blood shortage. 2-27-04 state.nj.press_photo

 

(Emphasis added.)

 

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