“The volume of discrimination is irrelevant to the need to prevent it.”
Mark Regnerus

Dr. Mark Regnerus would probably be a credible sociologist were it not for the fact that he makes an intellectually dishonest concoction of social science fused with religion.

Monday, according to Regnerus: Weak Data, Small Samples, and Politicized Conclusions on LGBT Discrimination. I would note that, this coming Friday, the Supreme Court will consider whether or not to hear the case of the idiotic florist claiming a religious exemption to a valid nondiscrimination law in Washington State.

I seem to recall a couple of bakers and others who believe that they have a religious duty not to serve gay people. I am a Jewish business person. By me, turning away customers is a sin. It is certainly pathetically stupid.

Getting back to Mark Regnerus’ sophistry:

The measurement, analytic, and interpretive decision-making displayed in much (though certainly not all) of the LGBT discrimination and well-being literature is troubling, indicative of a lack of standards, poorly defined concepts, impressionistic conclusions derived from small numbers of interviews, the politicization of results, and the overall novelty of the field.

My initial response to this is “so what?” Regnerus himself did his level best to maintain marriage discrimination. He did so through a moronic study of same-sex parenting that really wasn’t about same-sex parenting but Regnerus dishonestly insisted otherwise.

Regnerus does not like an article in the Washington Post:

According to a purported deep dive into the social scientific literature, discrimination against LGBT Americans has yielded “a huge human toll.” That was the news greeting readers of the December 19 issue of the Washington Post. Since I was the principal author of the amicus brief that authors Nathaniel Frank and Kellan Baker feature (as a foil) in the first paragraph of their Post article, I figured I should read it carefully.

I did, and what appeared there isn’t new news. It’s the same weak data, small samples, and politicized conclusions to which we have been treated for years. Half of the six studies Frank and Baker discuss in the Post even fail to “prove” that patterns of discrimination widely, systematically, and profoundly harm LGBT Americans.

What seems to be upsetting Regnerus is this summary of a literature review which, I caution, is not peer-reviewed product (the underlying study is):

  • 82% (245 studies) found robust evidence that discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation or gender
    identity is associated with harms to the health of LGBT people.
  • 14% (41 studies) reported mixed effects, such as significant findings for bisexual men but not for gay men.
  • 5% (14 studies) found no significant link between discrimination and health harms for LGBT people.

As I said in my amicus brief, that anti-gay discrimination can diminish psychological and physical health is widely acknowledged. But with society’s recent changes in norms and values, there is little evidence that chronic, repetitive, and intense discrimination based on sexual orientation remains a health issue. Moreover, the “minority stress” perspective privileged in such research opposes the idea that gays and lesbians should be seen merely as victims of social stress. They—like any other minority group—have long drawn strength from association and from establishing alternative structures and values, all of which temper the effect of discrimination. Indeed, the concept of resilience, or rebounding from adversity, has a rich history across the social sciences.

A little common sense is required. In much of the United States gay people can still be fired simply because they are gay or because they marry. Gay people in Mississippi are under tremendous stress. Less if they are in New York. To quote from one study:

The relationship between life stress and major depression is well

Frank and Baker, however, capitalize on the recent explosion of interest in transgender studies to extend the narrative of oppression. Sociologists call this “frame extension.” To merit continued attention to a population whose average income often well exceeds that of heterosexual Americans, the “frame” has been extended to encompass self-identified transgender persons, whose social and workplace experiences, not to mention incomes, appear far more challenging than those of gay and lesbian Americans.

The article that Regnerus cites is not peer-reviewed nor published to an academic journal. It does not include data relative to transgender people. While it mentions geographical disparities it does not adjust its estimates accordingly. Gay couples tend to live in more tolerant areas where wages are typically higher. Transgender persons are lucky to just have a job.

“Self-identified transgender persons” is more religious bullshit. It is a way of referring to transgender people while, at the same time, saying that they do not really exist in conformity with Catholic teaching.

Years before I was a CEO I ran a large family business (about 1,000 employees) as an out chief operating officer. I was very well compensated including a luxury vehicle and unlimited expenses. I flew first class and stayed in the very best hotels. However, I knew that my prospects for similar employment were limited because I am gay. In spite of compensation that added stress to a stressful job. Stress is unhealthy.

Indeed, the Post’s discussion of such research begins with a study of the cortisol (stress hormone) levels of 65 transitioning (female-to-male) study participants, asserting that “encountering barriers in access to public restrooms predicted higher levels of stress.” But even here a reading of the study shows something different. There is no measure of “encountering barriers in access to public restrooms.” The barrier is internal—a measure of what respondents reported feeling when “using gender-specific public bathrooms.” In other words, they use stress to predict stress. No wonder it’s statistically significant—but barely, and only detectable first thing in the morning after respondents awoke. There were no differences here in cortisol levels the rest of the day. It’s an odd, tiny, and rather weak study to lead with. Meanwhile, they elected not to assess solid international studies, including one that documents how “trans women” (on estrogen) exhibit a doubled risk of stroke or deep vein thrombosis. Now that’s a health outcome. And it’s not the result of stigma.

What is Regnerus trying to argue? That transgender people are not the objects of routine discrimination and denigration? I don’t really care how Regnerus attempts to analyze the studies (which is not to analyze the reality of discrimination). In other words, Regnerus is critical of the methodology of the studies. He is extending that criticism to assert that LGBTQ people are not subjected to discrimination which is to deny reality.

Regnerus continues verbosely along the same lines. He connects methodology he does not like to a lack of discrimination which is intellectually dishonest.

His conclusion drives the point home:

Hence, to suggest somehow that accommodating conscience and religious views on marriage and sexual expression opens the door to widespread discriminatory acts against LGBT persons is to overreach as well as to ignore public opinion and the ability of a free market economy to simultaneously accommodate diversity of thought and religious liberty. Americans—whether they are shopping for a cake or for a college—have long voted with their feet, their voices, and their wallets, and they remain free to do so. But as the Swedish study suggests, declining stigma and prejudice in America may not be enough to satisfy those who still feel unmeasurable acts of discrimination.

Public opinion is somewhat irrelevant. While a majority of Americans support marriage equality, the minority still victimizes gay couples. Refusing service serves no real religious purpose. It is a means of expressing disapproval. Our ability to “accommodate diversity of thought” is equally irrelevant. Thought — belief — is not at issue.

We have no interest in soliciting approval. What is at issue is conduct. We have an expectation that public accommodations will comply with applicable nondiscrimination laws. The same holds true with respect to employment and housing. Prejudice in America is probably in decline in spite of the efforts of people like Mark Regnerus.

LGBTQ people deserve federal protection from discrimination in employment, housing and public accommodations. We should not have to worry about someone’s religious beliefs as a condition of being employed, getting a lease or being served. People can believe anything that they want. However, it is long established (1879) precedence that in the United State a religious duty does not exempt someone from obeying the law.

But along comes Mark Regnerus to claim (I paraphrase) “oh, discrimination against LGBTQ people isn’t so bad. Therefore we deserve religious exemptions to valid nondiscrimination laws.” The volume of discrimination is irrelevant to the need to prevent it.

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By David Cary Hart

Retired CEO. Formerly a W.E. Deming-trained quality-management consultant. Now just a cranky Jewish queer. Gay cis. He/Him/His.