Monday, 23 January 2017

Interview with Caleb Laieski, an Advocate for LGBT Youth

Caleb Laieski is a 16-year-old advocate for LGBT youth. After being successful in getting his school and district to update its anti-discrimination policy and include protection for LGBT students in the student handbook, he's moved on to advocate for the Student Non-Discrimination Act pending before Congress. You can find out more about him here:

Friday, 20 January 2017

Battling the Blood Ban

Caleb Laieski, a Virginia resident and LGBT rights advocate who rose to prominence after speaking out against the anti-gay bullying that forced him to leave school when he had lived in Arizona, announced Thursday he had filed a lawsuit in the United State District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia against the U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s (FDA) ban on allowing gay and bisexual men to donate blood or organs.

Caleb Laieski

The ban, implemented in 1985, has its roots in the HIV/AIDS crisis of the 1980s when men who have sex with men (MSM) were the primary victims HIV/AIDS, and the disease was found to potentially be transmitted through blood transfusions. Under the policy, any man who has engaged in sex with other men since 1977 is “deferred,” meaning the donor could potentially be found to be eligible to donate blood or tissue for organ transplants at a later date, though for an indefinite amount of time. Over the years, several LGBT activist groups have called for the FDA to alter its policy of indefinite deferrals for MSM who wish to become donors. In 2010, the D.C. Council passed a resolution calling on the FDA to “reverse the lifetime deferment of blood donations by men who have had sex with men since 1977 in favor of a policy that protects the safety and integrity of the blood supply that is based on up-to-date scientific criteria.”
In his lawsuit, Caleb Laieski alleges that the ban targets a single class of citizens, violating their constitutional rights, fails to protect sick families, and violates medical and donor privacy by forcing them to disclose same-sex encounters and medical history in order to be able to donate — something not required of heterosexual donors.
AccordinfNoting that the ban was implemented when little was known about HIV/AIDS, Laieski says the ban has affected him and other gay and bisexual men throughout the country who want to donate blood to help save sick people’s lives. According to facts provided by Laieski, nearly 912,000 people are on a waiting list for organ donations, and a recent study showed that hospitals do not have access to nearly 219,000 pints of blood because of the restrictions imposed by the ban. Laieski cites a study by the American Red Cross that estimates lifting the ban could help save the lives of up to 1.8 million people. He further notes that medical technology and screening have allowed hospitals to more accurately test blood and tissue for the presence of HIV and other viruses, making the ban unnecessary as all blood must be screened for safety purposes.
“Where the defendant may debate that the ban is to protect the public or ensure that blood is safe, the defendant currently tests all blood to make sure it is safe, so their ban is not necessary. It is an outdated and discriminatory ban that is putting lives and our health care at jeopardy,” Laieski said in a statement announcing the lawsuit. 
Regarding the claim that the ban unfairly targets a single class of citizens, Laieski cites the Supreme Court’s findings in major LGBT rights cases such as Romer v. EvansLawrence v. Texas, and United States v. Windsor that found that the government could not single out a select group for discrimination, in this case, due to potential donors’ sexual orientation. He also argues that the ban violates the 14th Amendment rights of those sick people who would benefit from the ban’s repeal and that Title VI of the Civil Rights Act prohibits discrimination in federally funded programs, in that blood donations, are accepted by federally funded programs, hospitals, and organizations. He also notes that former Secretary of Health and Human Services Kathleen Sebelius previously acknowledged that the ongoing ban promoted discrimination and stereotypes against gay and bisexual men. 

“The defendant’s policy focuses on sexual orientation, rather than the actual risk and science,” Caleb Laieski says in concluding his argument for why he is bringing the lawsuit.

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Wednesday, 18 January 2017

Gay Teen Claims Discrimination at School

SURPRISE, Ariz. -- A Valley teen says he's been getting death threats because he's gay. Now, he wants his school district to do something about it.

"Well, you basically wake up in the morning and you know you're going to be teased, harassed," said Caleb Laieski, a 15-year-old from Surprise.
The last few years haven't been easy for him, ever since he came out of the closet in eighth grade.

"High school -- it got really bad, I started to receive death threats in school, out of school," he said.

During his freshman year at Willow Canyon High School, Laieski says on days it got really bad he had no choice but to leave campus altogether.
"I walked home, I just walked out those gates, I said, 'Too bad, I'm not being protected by administration, and I'm being treated poorly by students, and I have to do what's safe for myself.'"

Laieski said he reported the harassment to all levels of the administration from the assistant principal all the way up to Dysart Unified School District officials. But he claims little action was taken.

"All they did was talk with the student, and I think they should have at least showed they mean business on the matter," Laieski said. "If nothing else, even a lunch detention to say that the administration is really serious about the matter."

Caleb Laieski decided to take matters into his own hands, convincing the ACLU of Arizona to take up his case, and threatening to file a lawsuit against the school district.

Officials from the Dysart Unified School District declined to speak specifically on Laieski’s case because of privacy policies. But in a prepared statement, they said: "The Dysart Unified School District has policies in place that prohibit illegal discrimination and harassment as well as bullying... The implementation of the policies and practices are proven to be prompt and effective when utilized by a student."

Despite that, Laieski says nobody’s gotten in trouble for what he claims they’ve done to him.

"I really want to see they mean business for all LGBT students," he said.
Specifically, he wants the district to make a change in their student handbook. The handbook currently defines hate speech as "any communication that manifests malice towards others based on their race, gender or identity." Laieski wants that definition to be amended to include sexual orientation.
Amidst his frustration over the bullying and harassment, Laieski formed his own grassroots organization: Gays and Lesbians United against Discrimination (

He's also working with the ACLU to help pass a federal law known as the Student Non-discrimination Act of 2010.

Original Posted...