Views on homosexuality could have impact on Surgeon General nominee

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(Host) Vermont independent Senator Bernie Sanders is one of the lawmakers who will scrutinize President Bush’s choice to be the next Surgeon General today.

The nominee could face a tough confirmation fight in part because of his views on homosexuality.

Todd Zwillich has more from Capitol Hill.

(Zwillich) Dr. James Holsinger served in the Veterans Administration for 26 years, including a stint as the agency’s chief medical officer. He’s also on the judicial council board of the United Methodist Church.

A paper Holsinger wrote for the council in 1991 labels male homosexuality pathological. He wrote that nature speaks for itself that men should not have sex with men.

Some Democrats have already said they’ll oppose Holsinger’s nomination because of the writings. Sanders, who serves on the Senate Health and Education Committee, says he has some tough questions for the nominee.

(Sanders) “We’re going to take a hard look at that, absolutely. Homophobia has no place, zero place in the position of Surgeon General.”

(Zwillich) Sanders says he also wants to know if Holsinger will give health advice free of what he calls right wing political influence from the White House.

Earlier this week, former Surgeon General Richard Carmona told a House committee that political officials in the Bush White House repeatedly stifled his attempts to give health information to the public.

(Sanders) “Will Holsinger have the courage to represent the American people, and not just a right wing political ideology?”

(Zwillich) But Hollinger’s problems aren’t just coming from the left. The conservative Family Research Council said earlier this week it isn’t supporting Holsinger either. The group says Holsinger doesn’t strongly oppose embryonic stem cell research.

Conservative Utah Republican Senator Orrin Hatch will scrutinize the nomination along with Sanders. He says he hasn’t yet decided how hell vote.

(Hatch) “Well, if he’s irritating both sides, he’ll probably turn out to be pretty good.”

(Zwillich) Sanders says his vote, depends on Holsinger’s answers today.

For Vermont Public Radio, I’m Todd Zwillich on Capitol Hill.

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