My phone rang recently, and it was a local radio station asking me to respond to same-sex marriage still being the law of the land in Massachusetts. The measure calling for a constitutional amendment to ban same-sex marriage there was defeated by the full state legislature, 45 yes votes and a resounding 151 no’s.
Of course, my response was measured, delivered in appropriate sound bites, and echoing what everyone else is saying about the victory. It’s great for Massachusetts, but even greater for the rest of the country, where many LGBT people are still struggling to attain basic civil rights. The vote lets us put our resources into 2008 where they need to be – focusing on the presidential and pivotal state races, rather than having to pump tons of money into defeating another bad bill.
Ah, but truth be told, this victory is sweet but short, because now we need to turn our attention to defeating a bad nomination – that of Kentucky’s Dr. James W. Holsinger for U.S. Surgeon General. My initial response after reading about Holsinger was, “Who the hell is giving W advice these days?” Didn’t they see what would happen if they nominated a homophobic, radical Christian who started an ex-gay ministry? Did they think we wouldn’t notice?
On the face of it, Holsinger seems like a credible medical professional. He is a cardiologist who holds the University of Kentucky’s Charles T. Wethington Jr. Chair in the Health Sciences, and is the former chancellor of UK’s Chandler Medical Center. Just because he’s from the heart of the Bible Belt doesn’t mean we have to automatically jump to conclusions about his politics. After all, Abe Lincoln was born there, the LGBT community is gaining political strength in the Bluegrass State through the Kentucky Fairness Alliance, and they’ve even got an openly gay man in the state Senate – Ernesto Scorsone.
Well, maybe you should start jumping after all. Because as Wayne Besen of Truth Wins Out put it, “Holsinger is an ideologue whose medical views on gay and lesbian people resemble sorcery more than sound science.”
Holsinger is not only a doctor, but a devout Christian who is a high-ranking lay leader in the United Methodist Church – you know, the folks who talk about “Open Hearts, Open Minds, Open Doors” – except, of course, when it comes to us.
In his position on the United Methodist Judicial Council (the place where the buck stops in the Methodist Church), Holsinger’s record is anything but promising for LGBT people. He opposed the 2004 decision to allow Rev. Karen Dammann, a lesbian, to continue serving as a minister. He backed the defrocking of Rev. Beth Stroud, who came out to her Pennsylvania church community at the First United Methodist Church of Germantown. And, in one of the ugliest acts of religious discrimination, Holsinger backed a Virginia pastor who barred an openly gay man from church membership.
One could argue that those actions were his personal beliefs and wouldn’t interfere with him being the country’s top doctor.
Perhaps…but one need only read the Pathophysiology of Male Homosexuality, a “scientific” paper Holsinger wrote in 1991 for the Church’s Committee to Study Homosexuality, to see how his personal beliefs impact his science.
The piece is available online at abcnews.go.com/images/Politics/Holsinger on Homosexuality.pdf. (If you want some laughs, Stephen Colbert of The Colbert Report did a hilarious send-up of the paper and Holsinger – you can watch it at http://rawstory.com/news/2007/Colbert_Report_Why_are_gays_still_0614.html.)
One of my favorite passages reads, “…the logical complementarity of the human sexes has been so recognized in our culture that it has entered our vocabulary in the form of naming various pipe fittings either the male fitting or the female fitting depending upon which one interlocks within the other. When the complementarity of the sexes is breached, injuries and diseases may occur….Therefore, based on the simplest known anatomy and physiology, when dealing with the complementarity of the human sexes, one can simply say, Res ipsa loquitur – the thing speaks for itself!”
I guess the thing that is “speaking for itself” is a penis, which, in his estimation, belongs in only one place – a vagina. This is more like the science of a 6-year-old, not a 68-year-old.
I won’t get any more graphic. But if you want a great deconstruction of the paper, go to Jim Burroway’s www.boxturtlebulletin.com, a site that is devoted to debunking the lies told about us through research and well-reasoned writing. His conclusion puts Holsinger’s snake-oil chicanery in the proper perspective.
To add insult to injury, when Holsinger and his wife were congregants at Lexington’s First United Methodist Church, they helped their pastor form a new “outreach” congregation called the Hope Springs Community Church. Hope Springs sports an antigay ministry. According to them, being gay is just a lifestyle. With Christ’s love, anyone can be straight.
Next up are Holsinger’s confirmation hearings. When they’re scheduled, Holsinger will go before the U.S. Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions, which is chaired by Edward Kennedy (D-Mass.). Three Democratic presidential candidates – Hillary Clinton (N.Y.), Chris Dodd (Conn.), and Barack Obama (Ill.) – sit on the committee. Only Clinton has definitely said no to Holsinger. Dodd and Obama have strong concerns. John Edwards, although no longer in the Senate, opposes the nomination.
We won in Massachusetts. Conservatives are calling for the repeal of “don’t ask, don’t tell.” If there was ever a time for Democratic Party leaders to find their backbone, this is it. It’s time for truth to go a-calling – Holsinger’s homophobia has no place in medicine or in government.
Libby Post is the founding chair of the Empire State Pride Agenda and a political commentator on public radio, on the Web, and in print media. She can be reached at LesbianNotions@qsyndicate.com.