Gay rights groups have slammed President Bush’s nominee for surgeon general, Kentucky cardiologist Dr. James Holsinger, for writing in 1991 that gay sex is unnatural and unhealthy.

In his paper for the United Methodist Church, Holsinger said that gay sex was dangerous because “When the complementarity of the sexes is breached, injuries and diseases may occur.”

As a member of the Judicial Council of the United Methodist Church, Holsinger voted to oust an openly lesbian member of the clergy in 2004.

The executive director of gay rights group Soulforce, Jeff Lutes said: “As the leading spokesperson for matters of public health, the Surgeon General should be guided by sound medical science, not anti-gay views rooted in religion-based bigotry.

Holsinger and his wife co-founded the Hope Springs Community Church, in Lexington, Kentucky, which operates an “ex-gay” ministry aimed at “curing” gay people and turning them into heterosexuals.

The American Psychological Association identifies “depression, anxiety, and self-destructive behaviour” among the possible risks associated with ex-gay therapies.

But Holsinger, 68, has been defended by the White House who claim that he is “a strong advocate for… all Americans.”

When he announced his preference for Dr James Holsinger as a candidate, the president said the physician would focus on educating the public about childhood obesity.

The Surgeon General of the United States is the chief medical official in the country, and the leading medical advisor to the government.

Dr Holsinger’s nomination must be confirmed by a majority vote in the United States Senate before he is appointed.