President Bush's surgeon general nominee appeared before a Senate committee on Thursday disputing critics' claims that he is anti-gay.
"I can only say that I have a deep appreciation for the essential human dignity of all people, regardless of background or sexual orientation," Dr. James Holsinger told the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions, in a two-hour confirmation hearing. "Should I be confirmed as surgeon general, I pledge to you to continue that commitment."
Gay rights advocates have sharply criticized Bush's pick for the nation's top doctor, citing a 1991 paper he wrote for a church committee. In the paper titled "Pathophysiology of Male Homosexuality," Holsinger suggested that homosexual sex is unnatural and unhealthy.
On Thursday, Holsinger said the paper did not represent his present views, was not intended to be published and was not "an example of my scientific work," according to The New York Times.
"I did not attempt to write a definitive scientific paper," he said.
The paper was written to a United Methodist Church panel studying homosexuality at a time when the church was wracked by the issue and debating whether or not to remove the language that "homosexuality is incompatible with Christian teaching." The church ultimately kept the language.
"Questions have been raised about my faith and about my commitment to the health and well-being of all Americans, including gay and lesbian Americans," said Holsinger, who was deeply troubled by these allegations.
He told senators that they do not "represent who I am, what I believe, or how I have practiced medicine for the past 40 years."
Christian conservative Peter LaBarbera of Americans for Truth blasted the critics for slandering a qualified physician who "also happens to be a Christian who believes that homosexuals ... can leave their errant ways."
"How sad that we have reached the point where fidelity to historic, orthodox Biblical teachings is being used to attack candidates for government service," said LaBarbera in a released statement.
"Are we prepared to hang a sign on the doors of government that says, 'Christians Need Not Apply'?" he asked.
Matt Barber, policy director for Cultural Issues at Concerned Women for America, said, "It is both inappropriate and unconstitutional for the Senate to require that any nominee pass an anti-Christian religious litmus test based upon the demands of extremist left-wing special interest groups."
Two members of the Senate health committee have already declared their opposition to Dr. Holsinger's nomination because of the 1991 document.
Among other things, Holsinger said that he would support banning drug companies from advertising prescription medications on television and also banning media advertising junk food aimed at children. He also advocated abstinence as well as condom use to block unwanted pregnancy as an "appropriate" approach.
Bush nominated Holsinger in May saying the cardiologist would focus on childhood obesity. Holsinger said if he is confirmed to the position, his top three priorities would be tackling childhood obesity, making America a tobacco-free nation and improving the ability of the Public Health Service to respond to emergencies.