An official of the nation's largest gay political group says Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott is showing the right wing's influence by saying homosexuals should be helped "just like alcohol . . . or sex addiction . . . or kleptomaniacs."

"It's an indication of how the extreme right wing has a stranglehold on the leadership" of Congress, said Winnie Stachelberg, political director of the Human Rights Campaign, the 250,000-member gay and lesbian political organization. "It's comments like that that show he is much more in step with extreme elements than any other."Lott, R-Miss., made his remarks while taping an interview for "The Armstrong Williams Show" on the America's Voice television network.

During their interview, Williams asked Lott whether he considers homosexuality a sin and Lott replied, "Yeah, it is."

Lott added: "You should still love that person. You should not try to mistreat them or treat them as outcasts. You should try to show them a way to deal with that problem, just like alcohol . . . or sex addiction . . . or kleptomaniacs.

"There are all kinds of problems, addictions, difficulties, experiences of things that are wrong, but you should try to work with that person to learn to control that problem," he said.

The remarks thrust Lott into a controversy that has engulfed the scientific, gay and conservative communities: Whether homosexuals have chosen their sexual orientation or whether it is biologically predetermined.

Many in the gay community say homosexuality is predetermined by biology. Some conservatives and others believe homosexuality is a chosen lifestyle and have searched for a "cure" for being gay.

Conservative leaders like James Dobson, president of Focus on the Family, have met with Lott and other congressional leaders, urging them to push for conservative priorities, including a tax reduction for many married couples.

Such meetings "may explain why he hasn't scheduled time for the nomination of James Hormel," Stachelberg said.

Hormel is a San Francisco philanthropist and Democratic Party donor whom President Clinton nominated last year to be ambassador to Luxembourg. The Foreign Relations Committee approved the nomination in November, but it has been stalled ever since.

Earlier this month on CNN's "Late Edition" show, Lott said for the first time that he opposes Hormel's nomination, viewing him as an aggressive advocate of the gay lifestyle.