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Rantz: WA Democrats push light punishment for intentional HIV infection

State Rep Nicole Macri (D-Seattle) is championing a bill to lessen crimes associated with intentional HIV infection. (screengrab)

Democrats in Olympia are fighting to help monsters who intentionally transmit HIV to their victims get off with a light sentence. This part of the bill is morally bankrupt — as is any Democrat who votes in favor of it, under the despicable guise of fighting stigma.

Under current law, intentionally transmitting HIV to a sexual partner is a felony. But under House Bill 1551, the punishment would be severely downgraded to a misdemeanor punished by no more than 90 days in jail or a fine of less than $1,000.

Why do this? Proponents — all Democrats — say it kills the stigma attached to HIV. On the House floor, House Representative Nicole Macri (D-Seattle) called HIV “a treatable, a chronic illness, and not a moral failing or criminal justice issue.”

Disturbing defense

Rep. Eileen Cody (D-Vashon Island) is the sponsor of the bill, but Macri has emerged as a defender in the media. She and her colleagues will have you believe this bill is about protecting people living with HIV from stigma. By doing so, she treats the victim of intentional transmission of HIV with his or her rapist. And yes, I believe it is rape when you sleep with a partner, knowing you have HIV and suspecting your partner would not consent if you disclosed your status.

“The stigma around HIV continues to intrude on the privacy of what should be known as consensual sex. Non-consensual sex is not the issue here, we need to stop allowing for the stigmatization of LGBTQ people,” House Representative Nicole Macri (D-Seattle) told KING 5. “There are provisions in the bill before us that address disclosure concerns and allow for practical means to address prosecution.”

Macri’s position that only LGBTQ people have HIV aside, her argument is as embarrassing as it is disturbing.

The claim is that by punishing someone harshly for giving someone HIV treats HIV as a negative. People living with HIV shouldn’t be treated in a negative way. So, we must take away any negative connotations with the disease they’re living with.

The stigma lie

We’ve thankfully come a long way in how society views people living with HIV. Macri and other Democrats will have you believe it’s still the 80s and if not for their bill, the stigma will only worsen.

There is hardly stigma towards someone who was intentionally infected with HIV. It’s more like an outpouring of compassion, sympathy, and support. There is, however, stigma towards someone who intentionally gives someone HIV. There should be. If you are HIV positive and have sex without disclosing your status, you should never escape the stigma. You’re a monster playing with someone else’s life.

But Democrats don’t seem to see it this way.

The bill creates a defense against charges if you withheld your HIV status from a sexual partner, but your partner was lucky enough to not to contract it. And if you lie about status when a sexual partner asks, your punishment is simply labeled a gross misdemeanor.

But more worrisome, proponents of the bill note that people living with HIV aren’t all that inconvenienced by the deadly disease anymore.

You’re not a victim here

I feel nauseous reading the bill summary. It offers up the Democrat’s delusional take on living with HIV. They want you to believe that if you’re intentionally given HIV, you’re not a victim. You’re merely inconvenienced.

For the vast majority of people with HIV it is treated in outpatient clinics and with once-a day medications. People living with HIV now have nearly normal life expectancies. These advancements are amazing, but our laws have not caught up. Not changing these laws make the job of public health that much harder and continues the stigma. Criminalizing people with a disease state is not a banner we can support. We will end HIV through treatment not by threatening people with prison. Undetectable means untransmittable. Some provisions do not go far enough, but this bill does many good things and will help end HIV in Washington.

I’m astonished at how dishonest this excerpt is. Macri and her colleagues should be truly disgraced by this.

Under current law, being HIV-positive is not criminal. Not even a little bit. It is criminal — and it should be — to intentionally transmit HIV to a partner. If you knowingly have HIV and choose not to inform your partner, you should be treated as a rapist and be subject to more than a few nights in jail or a small fine.

Where does it end?

The Democratic argument here is that HIV infection is not that big of a deal. Take a pill a day, no biggie. Suddenly, consent of both parties doesn’t matter because we don’t want to stigmatize people living with HIV?

Progressives simultaneously push a worldview that promotes affirmative consent for hand holding and a K-12 sex education plan that includes safe sex topics, but now they won’t to go light on people who intentionally transmit HIV? They even argue that punishing intentional transmission of HIV is “holding us back” from ending the epidemic. In what world are we living?

You can end the stigma with people living with HIV while also punishing people who transmit the disease. How do I know? We support victims of rape, create safe environments for them to come forward, while also harshly punishing their rapists.

If this bill covered rape, the argument would be we should go easier on rapists, so rape victims don’t feel stigma after we prosecute their rapists. After all, the people living with having been raped could just get some counseling and they’ll be fine. Is that compassionate? No. It’s heartless and ridiculous. Yet when it comes to people purposefully exposed to HIV, we go easier on the criminal?!

What about promoting safe sex and Truvada as a means to dramatically cut down the risks of HIV infection? Should we give up on it? It’s free under many health insurance programs in this state. Should we get rid of that, too? Wouldn’t it stigmatize someone who ends up contracting HIV if we take preventative measures?

Some facts

Living with HIV is a burden and it fundamentally changes your life. My friend Chad Felix Greene lives with HIV. He knows the impact this disease can have. He told me this week:

Ten years ago, my diagnosis was a death sentence. Five years ago it meant living a limited life. Today medication has given me my life back. But I am always a month supply away from 10 years ago.

Giving this burden to someone else, without them even knowing the risk? I just cannot imagine it.

Greene, nor anyone living with HIV, should feel shame. They shouldn’t be mistreated or unfairly judged. Do that in front of me (or in the comments section below) and you won’t like my response. I will gladly fight for their dignity and respect and I know most of you will, too. But if you purposefully give someone HIV? You’re worthy of a very public shaming and a very long prison sentence.

A version of the Washington bill was passed in 2017 in California. Greene covered the controversy for The Federalist back when it was discussed. He notes the same moral and legal arguments that Washington Republicans argue:

The problem is not one of outcome but one of motivation and responsibility. I am HIV-positive, and I have an undetectable viral load. This means it would be close to impossible for me to infect another person sexually. But do I have a moral and ethical obligation to tell a potential partner this information and allow him to determine for himself that risk? I argue that I do. The question is, should I be legally obligated as well? The answer is one of consent. Can a person consent to sex without knowing the physical risks of the activity? I assert he or she cannot.

So now what?

Next steps

The Senate companion bill is up for a vote in the coming weeks. The main sponsor is Sen. Emily Randall (D-Bremerton). If you live in her district, you should call her and email her to let her know this bill sends the absolute wrong message. If you’re not in her district, you need to call your senators and weigh in on this.

Sit back and say nothing, and this bill passes with just an alarmed talk show host talking about it. Or you could take three minutes out of your day to make a simple, civil phone call or send a reasonable email letting your representatives know where you stand on this. They won’t talk to me, too terrified of tough questions. But they have to talk to you. When you call, take notes of who you’re speaking to and what they’re saying. Always be polite.

When you shine a spotlight on these bills — when you pay attention — you have a lot more power than you realize. So go ahead and help me shine a spotlight on this. Share this story and call and email your state senators.

And to the members of the media that read my stories and listen to my show: Do your jobs and ask some tough questions. I know you have to worry about access to these lawmakers and any tough question could threaten that. I’m in a somewhat unique position where my show — far longer than the two-minute produced pieces most of you create — doesn’t depend on interviews with Macri or Cody or any lawmaker. But asking a tough question and follow up is, actually, your job.

Listen to the Jason Rantz Show weekday afternoons from 3-6 p.m. on KTTH 770 AM (or HD Radio 97.3 FM HD-Channel 3). Subscribe to the podcast here. Follow @JasonRantz on Twitter.

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