Homosexuals get Rep. Larry P. McDonald (D-Ga.) very upset. He cannot stamp them out, but he can try to stop the government from helping them.

Three years ago he got the House to agree to prohibit the Legal Services Corp. from extending any federally subsidized legal aid to homosexuals. The Senate objected, and the ban did not become law.

McDonald remained upset. So last year he introduced a resolution expressing the sense of Congress that homosexuals "shall never receive special consideration or a protected status under law."

In July, when the House was considering the fiscal 1981 appropriation for Legal Services, McDonald offered an amendment to ban the use of any funds for the legal defense of homosexuals.

Rep. Neal Smith (D-Iowa) raised a point of order, arguing that the amendment was illegal -- it amounted to making law on an appropriations bill. He was overruled.

Rep. John L. Burton (D-Calif.) called McDonald's amendment an "outrageous" violation of civil rights. "Shocking" discrimination is how Rep. S. William Green (R-N.Y.) put it.

By voice vote, McDonald's amendment was rejected. But then the Georgia conservative demanded a roll-call vote, and, not surprisingly, he became an easy winner.

In an election year, on a controversial social issue, with names being recorded, the "safe" way to vote, for most members, was with McDonald.

That vignette is a near classic example of a growing legislative development -- the use of language added to money bills to deal with the most controversial and contentious kinds of issues troubling Congress and the public.

It has become routine for the House and Senate to express themselves on such hot potatoes as abortion, school busing, prayer in school, job safety and health, job quotas and the like with language banning federal expenditures.

Conversely, the appropriations bills are top-heavy with language ordering the agencies to spend money on special projects and programs, particularly those favored by members of the Appropriations committees.

That clout, of course, is what makes legislators scramble to get seats on the committees. Not only can they dole out the money, they also can pinpoint where and how it is to be spent.

But Senate Appropriations Chairman Warren G. Magnuson (D-Wash.) was not just joking last year when he told the Senate that if the Panama Canal treaty package had failed, it no doubt would have been attached as a rider to a money bill.

The use of the rider -- in addition that rides along on another measure -- appears to be increasingly popular this year, although no one in Congress keeps good statistics on the issue.

So far this year, the House has passed 10 appropriations bills for fiscal 1981 with 153 amendments. Of those, 64 were money-oriented; 89 dealt with issues, riders of the purple rage, as it were.

Those 89 directives, for the most part bannning an agency from using appropriated money on programs, were in addition to the scores of similar admonitions inserted by the appropriations subcommittees before their bills reached the floor.

Each of the 13 key money bills the House and Senate produce will be heavily laden with language, often in bland, code-like terms, understood only by agency administrators, directing how funds are to be spent.

The magnitude of the use of language in money bills, and the problem it creates, was illustrated last year when House and Senate conferees met to work out differences in their respective labor, health and education appropriations.

Two hundred differences on money and language matters were worked out in a marathon 13-hour session. That left conferees hung up over language on abortion, a dispute that took several more months to resolve.

When the House took up this year's version of the same bill last month, it approved the usual language on abortion, busing, prayer.It proscribed the Occupational Safety and Health Administration from spending money in seven specific areas. It banned the Department of Education from requiring states to provide bilingual educational programs except as directed by Congress.

The bilingual amendment, sponsored by Rep. John M. Ashbrook (R-Ohio), drew immediate criticism from Education Secretary Shirley M. Hufstedler, who said bilingual programs would be "seriously undermined."

That was just what Ashbrook had in mind. And to cut off litigious bilingualists at the pass, he got another amendment adopted banning the courts from overturning any congressional spending bans.

Capitol Hill theories vary over the growing use of the riders on money bills: election-year politics, pressures for action from single-issue lobbies, general discontent over federal regulations, television coverage in the House, the appearance legislators give of dominating the bureaucrats.

"What's new is the increasing frustration around here with the authorizing committees, which either don't do their job or don't do it in time," said a Senate Appropriations Committee staffer.

In the delicate balance between authorizers and appropriators, if authorizing legislation is not on the books the Appropriations committes assume a larger role in directing how the money is spent.

Department of Energy programs, as one example, have been without authorization for the most part during this Congress and the 95th because of jurisdictional disputes between the committees.

That has left the House and Senate Appropriations committees in the position of deciding where, and for what purposes, the energy money would be spent.

The fiscal 1981 DOE money bills adopted by the House and Senate committees differ enormously in part, some say, because of the appropriators are working largely on their own without the guidance authorizing legislation would provide.