Thousands donating blood after Orlando tragedy, but some left out

Blood donation controversy (VIDEO)

CINCINNATI, OH (FOX19) - Thousands are racing to blood banks in Florida to donate to victims of the nightclub massacre in Orlando.

But, one group isn't necessarily welcomed to help the cause, and for many of them it all hits very close to home.

Because of federal regulations, some gay men cannot donate blood.

Despite that, the desire to help is spiking locally.

"From about 10:30 til 2, we had 20 more calls than normal," said Alecia Lipton with Hoxworth Blood Center.

Blood donated at Hoxworth will stay local, but the need to help tends to spike after tragedies, officials say.

"It's way that people can give back.  It's a way they can help.  They can make a blood donation, if not directly to a person, they can make it definitely in honor of them," Lipton told FOX19 NOW.  "After the 9/11 tragedy, blood centers across the United States had a huge influx in donors."

It's believed the influx in calls on Monday to Hoxworth is in response to the tragic weekend in Orlando.  In Florida, for the last few days, people have lined up to donate blood to the victims.  But not all of them can donate.

"To be able to say, 'No.  I'm sorry you can't because of your lifestyle,'  is very hard to say to someone," Lipton said.

Many of those lining up to give blood are part of the LGBT community.

"When we jump in to help, it feels like we're being targeted all over again," said Steve Newsome with the Human Rights Campaign.

FDA regulations - while they are far more lax now than ever before - exclude some gay men from donating.

"It's another gut-punch to the stomach because the people who want to help can't, and they can't for unreasonable reasons," said Cincinnati city council member Chris Seelbach.

If a man has had sex with another man, they cannot donate blood for 12 months.  The same applies to a woman who has had sex with a bisexual man.

"There's no reason that a gay man, like myself, shouldn't be able to donate blood," Seelbach told FOX19 NOW.

Blood donations are tested for disease.  Regulations for donations by gay men were eased last year from a full-ban that had been in place since the 1980s.

"There's no reason to not accept blood from gay men in the era that we live in," Newsome said.

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