A Questionable Nominee

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Thursday, June 14, 2007

PRESIDENT BUSH has nominated Dr. James W. Holsinger Jr. to be the next surgeon general of the United States. His would be the leading voice on health issues in the nation, and as such, he would be looked to for unbiased information grounded in sound science and tailored to the common good. That's why a 1991 paper written by Dr. Holsinger titled "Pathophysiology of Male Homosexuality" has raised red flags.

Dr. Holsinger has had a distinguished career. From 1969 to 1994 he worked in the Department of Veterans Affairs, rising to undersecretary for health in 1992. From 1994 to 2003, Dr. Holsinger was chancellor of the University of Kentucky Medical Center. He was appointed by Gov. Ernie Fletcher (R) in 2003 as Kentucky's chief of health and family services, a post he held until December 2005 when he returned to the University of Kentucky. But his activity in the United Methodist Church has earned him the ire of gay groups across the country.

As a member of the church's Judicial Council, Dr. Holsinger voted with the majority to boot a lesbian from her post as a minister and to allow ministers to deny church membership to gay men and lesbians. It is not our place to tell religions what their beliefs should or should not be. But that stricture does not apply when bigotry masquerades as science. Dr. Holsinger prepared "Pathophysiology of Male Homosexuality" for the Committee to Study Homosexuality of the United Methodist Church, which was discussing whether to end the church's stance of not condoning homosexuality. Pathophysiology was defined as "abnormal function."

The six pages of prurient fascination with what Dr. Holsinger believes is gay sex paint all gay men as promiscuous beings who are riddled with disease because of various sex acts (described in detail) that are in the extreme for both homosexuals and heterosexuals. To prove his argument that gay sex was unhealthy and unnatural, Dr. Holsinger wrote, "In fact, the logical complementarity of the human sexes has been so recognized in our culture that it has entered our vocabulary in the form of naming various pipe fittings either the male fitting or the female fitting depending upon which one interlocks within the other." Is he a doctor or the ACE Hardware man?

Christina Pearson, spokeswoman at the Department of Health and Human Services, said, "Dr. Holsinger remains focused on addressing the health of all in need, including gay and lesbian populations, consistent with sound science and the best medical practices." Senators who will meet with Dr. Holsinger when he makes the rounds on Capitol Hill this month need to determine -- at a minimum -- whether his judgment of sound science and best medical practices has improved since 1991.


© 2007 The Washington Post Company

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