Lifetime's Drop Dead Diva to Tackle FDA Ban on Gay Sperm Donation

By Camille Beredjick

Originally published on Advocate.com August 16 2012 3:00 AM ET

The Lifetime show Drop Dead Diva will address in an upcoming episode the FDA's ban on sperm donations by men who have sex with men (MSM), according to a statement released Tuesday.

Sunday night's episode, titled "Family Matters," will follow Dan Abraham (played by Tyler Jacob Moore of Shameless), a gay man in jeopardy of losing visitation rights to his son because he donated sperm.

“The creators of Drop Dead Diva have once again used their platform to shed light on injustices that require greater attention,” said GLAAD President Herndon Graddick in a press release. “Storytellers and television have a powerful ability to help enact social change by first reaching people through entertainment. This episode demonstrates how unfair this outdated and biased ban really is."

The FDA has banned MSM from sperm donation since 2005 to decrease the risk of sexually transmitted diseases, particularly HIV and Hepatitis B. The guidelines inform sperm banks that men who have had sex with men in the preceding five years cannot donate because they are at a higher risk for these and other STDs.

The policy closely resembles the FDA's ban on blood donations by MSM, a policy that's been in place since 1983 and was upheld in 2010. Both policies have been denounced by gay rights activists for perpetuating a stereotype about gay men and HIV.

“As we continue to advocate for reformed blood donation policies for gay men, the prohibition of gay men donating sperm reminds us of the uphill challenges we face with the Food and Drug Administration,” said Nathan Schaefer, Director of Public Policy at the Gay Men’s Health Crisis (GMHC), in the press release. “Biological parenting is another part of life, along with adoption and marriage, that should be available to all Americans – regardless of their sexual orientation.”

Drop Dead Diva has explored LGBT issues in other episodes, including some based on real events. One episode is based on the true story of Constance McMillen, a Mississippi high schooler who sued her school district for refusing to let her take her girlfriend to prom. Another episode explored a legal battle between a transgender woman and her late partner's parents.

Josh Berman, the show's openly gay creator and executive producer, says Drop Dead Diva sets out to focus on justice and matters of right and wrong, lending itself easily to plots incorporating LGBT issues.

"Sadly, in our country today the segment of the population that is often treated with disrespect is the LGBT community," Berman told The Advocate by phone Tuesday. "This season I was really inspired to tackle an issue that I think is an extreme, extreme injustice."

Berman says the cast and crew, including gay rights activist Margaret Cho, who has a lead role on the show, embraced the episode from the very beginning. He says the crew did extensive research to get all the facts right, and some were in disbelief that the policy was real.

"I never start writing an episode with the hope of sending a particular message, but in this case I really hope that the viewers who watch the show are simply made aware that just because a rule is in the book, it doesn’t mean it’s right," Berman said. "We have to question laws or rules that limit the rights of gays and lesbians, and question why legislature passes laws that are really not grounded in real science, but are grounded in homophobia."