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Bush Nominates Proponent of "Cure" for Gays As Surgeon General

by Kilian Melloy
Tuesday Jun 5, 2007
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The Human Rights Campaign spoke out today in opposition to President Bush’s nomination of Dr. James Holsinger to the position of Surgeon General, based on Holsinger’s evident support of so-called "reparative" or "conversion" therapies, which some religious denominations promote as a means to "cure" homosexuality, but which has never received credible endorsement from any branch of the medical profession, and has drawn some criticism as a harmful, rather than therapeutic, practice.

Bush announced Holsnger’s nomination on May 24, saying, "Dr. Holsinger is an accomplished physician who has led one of our Nation’s largest healthcare systems, the State of Kentucky’s healthcare system, and the University of Kentucky’s medical center. He also has taught at several American medical schools, and he served more than three decades in the United States Army Reserve, retiring in 1993 as a Major General."

Among other duties, the U.S. Surgeon General is charged with educating Americans about public health. Dr. Holsinger’s record stands out in stark relief to the actions of Ronald Reagan’s Surgeon General, C. Everett Koop, who defied the political right in the late 1980s to educate the American public about the medical facts surrounding HIV and AIDS, including forthright medical information about condom use that made many on the right uncomfortable.

"Dr. Holsinger has a record that is unworthy of America’s doctor," said Human Rights Campaign President Joe Solmonese. "His writings suggest a scientific view rooted in anti-gay beliefs that are incompatible with the job of serving the medical health of all Americans. It is essential that America’s top doctor value sound science over anti-gay ideology."

One central source of objections to Holsinger’s nomination is a document titled "Pathophysiology of Male Homosexuality" in which Dr. Holsinger opined, in his capacity as a physician, that biology and anatomy precluded considering GLBT equality in his denomination. The opinion very clearly states that this is his scientific view, stating that his theological views are separate from the opinion rendered in the paper.

Additionally, Dr. Holsinger and his wife were founders of Hope Springs Community Church which, according to the church’s pastor, ministers to people who no longer wish to be gay or lesbian. The pastor, Rev. David Calhoun, said that the church has an "ex-gay" ministry. "We see that as an issue not of orientation but a lifestyle," Calhoun said. "We have people who seek to walk out of that lifestyle." So-called "ex gay" conversion therapy has been condemned by almost every major, reputable medical organization, including the American Psychological Association, which issued a condemnation over ten years ago.

"Although the church’s theology isn’t being nominated [to the post of Surgeon General], this discredited practice purports to be a psychological and medical service, and if Dr. Holsinger is involved in any way, it conflicts with his duty to accept and promote sound science in the interest of public health," said Solmonese.

"We are hopeful that during the hearing process Congress will fully examine Dr. Holsinger’s background and part of that examination will include issues affecting our community, including his stance on conversation therapy," continued Solmonese. "Too often, we have seen President Bush send nominees to Congress that have proven their inability to separate their personal beliefs from their professional duties.

"As the nation’s chief medical doctor, the office of Surgeon General is an extremely important position that has an impact on the lives of gay and lesbian Americans, and the hearing process should involve a discussion about where Dr. Holsinger stands on medical issues relating to our community," Solmonese concluded.

If confirmed, Holsinger would become America’s 18th Surgeon General.

Kilian Melloy serves as EDGE Media Network’s Assistant Arts Editor, writing about film, theater, food and drink, and travel, as well as contributing a column. His professional memberships include the National Lesbian & Gay Journalists Association, the Boston Online Film Critics Association, and the Boston Theater Critics Association’s Elliot Norton Awards Committee.

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