Ethics and Public Policy Center

A New Regnerus? Anti-Equality Groups Promote New Study on Sexual Orientation and Gender

Anti-equality organizations are enthusiastically promoting a new study on sexual orientation and gender, hoping it will be new culture war ammunition.

The study by Dr. Lawrence Mayer and Dr. Paul McHugh appears in “The New Atlantis,” a journal co-published by the right-wing Ethics and Public Policy Center and the Center for the Study of Technology and Science, which shares an address with EPPC. The New Atlantis is not a peer-reviewed journal, and has critiqued peer review, widely considered the gold standard in scientific publishing.

Among the authors’ contentions are that the belief that sexual orientation and gender identity are innate or fixed properties is “not supported by scientific evidence.” The study also says that the stress of social stigma is not a sufficient explanation for higher rates of mental health and substance abuse problems in LGBT communities.

In his preface, co-author Mayer dedicates his work to the LGBT community, “which bears a disproportionate rate of mental health problems compared the population as a whole,” and to “scholars doing impartial research on topics of public controversy.” He declares himself a supporter of equality and opponent of anti-LGBT discrimination.

Mayer says that McHugh initially approached him to review a monograph he had written and the project expanded from there. The prominent but controversial McHugh is a Catholic in his mid-80s who has described himself as “religiously orthodox, politically liberal, and culturally conservative – a believer in marriage and the Marines, a supporter of institutions and family values.” The new study builds on a body of work that dismisses the notion of transgender identity. TransAdvocate and others challenged McHugh’s “selective reading of transgender medical literature” two years ago, and ThinkProgress critiqued his work in 2015.

Brian Brown at the National Organization for Marriage can hardly contain his excitement about the new study, writing in a letter to supporters, “The importance of this new study cannot be overstated.” He urges people to “help spread the word” to “make sure that this groundbreaking research gains the wide hearing it deserves despite what will surely be a concerted effort by the media to bury its findings.”

Also participating in the roll-out is the Heritage Foundation’s Ryan Anderson, one of the most prominent opponents of marriage equality. Anderson says the study’s findings undermine the Obama administration’s requirement that schools accommodate transgender children as well as the Supreme Court’s marriage equality ruling.

Anderson has written a book and spoken widely about how the anti-equality movement should reject and resist the Supreme Court’s marriage equality ruling.  Anderson has urged the anti-equality movement to conduct new research (citing  the widely discredited Mark Regnerus study on “family structures”) to create “new insights” that future Supreme Court justices could use as justification for overturning Obergefell.


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