President Bush’s nominee for Surgeon General told the US Senate yesterday he is not anti-gay.

Dr. James Holsinger has been critcised by gay rights groups, physicians and politicians 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.”

“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,” he told the Senate Health Committee.

“I am deeply troubled by these allegations, they do not represent who I am, what I believe, or how I have practised medicine for the past 40 years.

“I can only say that I have a deep appreciation for the essential human dignity of all people regardless of background or sexual orientation.

“Should I be confirmed as surgeon general, I pledge to you to continue that commitment.”

Committee chairman Senator Edward Kennedy said he was concerned that if Dr Holsinger is appointed then he could let his personal beliefs affect his professional judgement.

He referred to the controversial paper, Pathophysiology of Male Homosexuality.

Dr Holsinger claims now the document is unscientific and does not represent his current views.

“Dr Holsinger’s paper is ideological and decidedly not an accurate analysis of the science then available on homosexuality.

“Dr Holsinger’s paper cherry picks and and misuses data to support his thesis that homosexuality is unhealthy and unnatural,” Sentor Kennedy said.

The hearing came two days after former Surgeon General Dr Richard Carmona accused the Bush administration of distorting scientific records to agree with public policy.

Dr Holsinger’s response to how he would stand up to political pressure is that he would rather resign than sacrifice his principles.

A professor at University of Kentucky College of Public Health, he has served as chief medical director of the Department of Veteran Affairs, overseeing America’s largest health care system, with facilities in all fifty states.

If confirmed, Dr Holsinger wants to tackle issues of childhood obesity, improve emergency services and promote a tobacco-free country.

Gay rights groups, the American Public Health Association and 35 members of the House are opposed to his nomination.

In support are former Surgeon General C Everett Koop and the American College of Physicians.

The committee is unlikely to vote before the end of the summer.