Appeal judges in Minnesota yesterday rejected arguments in the appeal of United States Senator Larry Craig against his conviction for disorderly conduct in an airport toilet.

The Republican politician wanted to withdraw his guilty plea. A district judge had already rejected his request.

In February the US Senate Ethics Committee criticised Senator Craig over the incident which led to him being arrested for cruising, but decided to take no further action against him.

The Senator from Idaho, who married with three children, denies he is gay.

He was arrested on June 11th 2007 by an undercover police officer in a Minneapolis airport toilet.

He said the lawmaker had engaged in conduct “often used by persons communicating a desire to engage in sexual conduct.”

Minutes after his arrest for lewd conduct, Craig, 62, denied soliciting for sex, saying “I’m not gay. I don’t do these kinds of things.”

He later announced he would challenge his guilty plea and claimed that he admitted to the charge in a panic to avoid triggering a story about his sexuality in his hometown newspaper.

The six-member Ethics Committee said in a letter to Senator Craig that in their view he he “committed the offence to which you pleaded guilty” and “entered your plea knowingly, voluntarily, and intelligently.”

They said he had brought shame on the Senate by challenging his plea.

He is to step down in January 2009.

In October, appearing on TV alongside his wife, the Republican was asked by NBC correspondent Matt Lauer:

“Are you technically not a homosexual? Is it possible you’re bisexual?”

The Senator replied: “It’s no to both.”

Mrs Craig was also questioned by Mr Lauer about her husband’s sexuality.

She admitted she did some “soul searching” after she found out about the bathroom incident, but said:

“I honestly believe my husband has always been faithful to me in every way.”

She also dealt with persistent press rumours about her husband having secret homosexual life, describing an incident when journalists coming to her home asking for comment after a man had claimed to have had sex with the Senator in Washington’s Union Station.

“I knew immediately it was not the truth, because the description he gave of Larry in some areas that only I might know about were wrong on three counts.”

Asked about his hostile voting record on gay rights, Senator Craig said: “I don’t approve of the lifestyle.”

He first announced he intended to resign by September 30th, then said he was reconsidering.

He later said he would wait until after his appeal against his guilty plea was heard.

Senator Craig then announced that despite the court decision against him he will remain in the Senate until the end of his term.

He was a member of the House of Representatives before winning his first Senate term in 1990.

Senator Craig has been denying he is gay since 1982, when he issued a denial that he was involved in a scandal involving gay sex between Congressmen and underage pages, despite the fact that he had not been publicly implicated. He married a year later.