Yesterday the House of Representatives passed the ADA Amendments Act, adopting the Senate version of a bill which will rectify many of the crabbed interpretations of the Americans with Disabilities Act in recent years. This is a huge step forward for all disabled persons, including people with AIDS and HIV. Among the many barriers erected by some federal judges for HIV patients has been a narrow definition of "disability," such that HIV infection did not meet the standard of limiting a major life activity unless the plaintiff could prove that he or she was prevented or severely restricted from having children.
In a floor statement during yesterday's debate, Rep. Tammy Baldwin emphasized the importance of the bill to people with HIV, citing cases in which the current interpretation of the statutory language has blocked anti-discrimination protection. See Carrillo v. AMR Eagle, 148 F. Supp. 2d 142 (D.P.R. 2001); Gutwaks v. American Airlines, 1999 WL 1611328 (N.D. Tex); and Blanks v. Southwest Bell Communications, 310 F.3d 398 (5th Cir. 2002). Baldwin's full statement appears in the Congressional Record for September 17 at H8297-8298.
The ADA Amendments Act corrects this problem by specifically listing "functions of the immune system" as an example of what Congress intended to cover when it passed the ADA in 1990 and what will now be explicitly covered under the new language.
President Bush has announced that he will sign the legislation.