“Giving blood is an act of generosity, of civic responsibility, and the donor’s sexual orientation cannot be a condition,” Marisol Touraine announced in Paris.
“While respecting patient safety, today we are lifting a taboo,” she said.
Touraine said the lifting of the ban, promised by Francois Hollande in his presidential campaign, will happen piecemeal, starting next year.
At first, donation will be open to gay men who had not been sexually active for the preceding 12 months, she specified.
In other countries with similar exclusionary provisions for potential donors, including Australia, Britain, Japan and Sweden, rights groups criticise the measures as discriminatory.