The Senate Health Committee will have to dig beneath the surface on Thursday to consider the nomination of Dr. James Holsinger to be surgeon general. Dr. Holsinger has high-level experience as a health administrator, but there are disturbing indications that he is prejudiced against homosexuals.
His strongest statement on homosexuality can be found in a murky, loosely reasoned paper that he wrote for a church committee in 1991. Titled “Pathophysiology of Male Homosexuality,” the paper purported to be a scientific and medical review. It argued that gay sex was abnormal on anatomical and physiological grounds and unhealthy, in that anal sex can lead to rectal injuries and sexually transmitted diseases. Dr. Holsinger did not brand the large number of heterosexual women who engage in anal sex as abnormal, failed to acknowledge the huge burden of disease spread heterosexually and implied that women are more likely than men to avoid injuries with generous lubrication.
The Bush administration says the white paper reflected the scientific understanding of the time, but it reads like a veneer of science cloaking an aversion to homosexuality. The committee should examine whether Dr. Holsinger cherry-picked the literature or represented it objectively. Most important, it must determine whether Dr. Holsinger holds these benighted views today. The Senate should not confirm a surgeon general who considers practicing homosexuals abnormal and diseased.