The American Independent and the The Huffington Post obtained incriminating documents that show a “study” that claimed gay parents were inferior was a rigged con job timed to influence “major decisions of the Supreme Court,” particularly those that pertained to marriage equality.
Desperately needing to bankroll a junk science study to undermine LGBT families in court cases, The Witherspoon Institute sought a professor from a major university who was sympathetic to their unethical and discriminatory goals. The stooge they found to carry out their bogus attack disguised as research was Professor Mark Regnerus (pictured) from University of Texas.
Another dupe (or co-conspirator) was James Wright, editor of Social Science Research, which published the study’s findings last year. After doing virtually no fact checking and rushing junk science to print, Wright now claims he had no clue that Witherspoon and Regnerus were exploiting his journal to accomplish their political, rather than scientific, agenda.
“So far as the Supreme Court is concerned, I consider marriage and adoption rights for GLBT people to be a matter of civil rights, i.e., a legal question, not something to be ‘resolved’ by empirical research, and I resent having social science data and research drawn into such debates,” Wright, a University of Central Florida sociology professor, said in an email.
Wright has a moral and ethical responsibility to loudly and publicly disown and disavow this study and apologize for being suckered (unless he is actually in on the fraud). The media who breathlessly reported on this study without due diligence, also have an obligation to undo the damage by filing follow-up reports that debunk the misinformation.
According to the Huffington Post:
In a study slammed for its methodology, funding, and academic integrity, University of Texas associate sociology professor Mark Regnerus found that children who grew up in households where one parent had a same-sex relationship (regardless of whether the children lived with that parent or that parent’s supposed same-sex partner) were more likely to experience negative social, psychological, and economic outcomes than children raised by a married heterosexual couple.
When the sham study first came out I wrote:
There are two things we know about the religious right: They have no faith in science, and they cynically distort science to justify their faith.
The latest example is a new study by University of Texas researcher Mark Regnerus (pictured), “How Different are the Adult Children of Parents Who Have Same-Sex Relationships?” The research will appear in the July issue of the journal Social Science Research with the data purporting to uncover “numerous, consistent differences, especially between children of women who have had a lesbian relationship and those with still-married (heterosexual) biological parents.” The message of this study is that in several categories the children of gay parents are worse off. It is critical to note that this study flies in the face of decades of research that comes to the polar opposite conclusion.
While billed as the “gold standard” of science because of its sample size, upon closer inspection it looks more like fools gold. What stands out and disqualifies this study from serious consideration is that it is an example of what I call “dollarship,” which stands in stark contrast to genuine scholarship. Dollarship is when right wing organizations provide money to produce subpar studies that back their worldview. We have seen such “research” from cigarette manufacturers, the pollution lobby, and certainly the anti-gay industry. Regnerus’ ignoble effort falls into this category with a $695,000 grant from the Witherspoon Institute and a $90,000 grant from the archconservative Bradley Foundation.
Most ominously, Princeton professor Robert P. George is a key member of Witherspoon. George has been affiliated with The Family Research Council and is a founder of the notorious National Organization for Marriage. The chances of a “think tank” tied to George producing a study that shines a positive light on gay parents are about the same as palm trees sprouting in January outside my bedroom window in Burlington, Vt.
The appropriate title of this junk science study would be: “Surprise, right wing extremists don’t like gay parents.”
It turns out that I, and especially Scott Rose of the New Civil Rights Movement, got the number of these dishonest charlatans. Scott really forced the issue and deserves credit for keeping it alive. Last week, he saw the fruits of his labor when the American Sociological Association filed a brief urging the Supreme Court to overturn Prop 8. In it’s brief, the ASA destroys the infamous sham study:
First, the Regnerus study does not specifically examine children born or adopted into same-sex parent families, but instead examines children who, from the time they were born until they were 18 or moved out, had a parent who at any time had “a same-sex romantic relationship.” . As Regnerus noted, the majority of the individuals characterized by him as children of “lesbian mothers” and “gay fathers” were the offspring of failed opposite- sex unions whose parent subsequently had a same-sex relationship. In other words, Regnerus did not study or analyze the children of two same-sex parents.
Second, when the Regnerus study compared the children of parents who at one point had a “same-sex romantic relationship,” most of whom had experienced a family dissolution or single motherhood, to children raised by two biological, married opposite-sex parents, the study stripped away all divorced, single, and stepparent families from the opposite-sex group, leaving only stable, married, opposite-sex families as the comparison. . . Thus, it was hardly surprising that the opposite-sex group had better outcomes given that stability is a key predictor of positive child wellbeing. By so doing, the Regnerus study makes inappropriate apples-to-oranges comparisons.
Third, Regnerus’s first published analysis of his research data failed to consider whether the children lived with, or were raised by, the parent who was, at some point, apparently involved in “a romantic relationship with someone of the same sex” and that same-sex partner. Instead, Regnerus categorized children as raised by a parent in a same-sex romantic relationship regardless of whether they were in fact raised by the parent and the parent’s same-sex romantic partner and regardless of the amount of time that they spent under the parent’s care. As a result, so long as an adult child believed that he or she had had a parent who had a relationship with someone of the same sex, then he or she was counted by Regnerus as having been “raised by” a parent in a same-sex relationship.
Fourth, in contrast to every other study on same-sex parenting, Regnerus identified parents who had purportedly engaged in a same-sex romantic relationship based solely on the child’s own retrospective report of the parent’s romantic relationships, made once the child was an adult. This unusual measurement strategy ignored the fact that the child may have limited and inaccurate recollections of the parents’ distant romantic past.
Finally, the study fails to account for the fact that the negative outcomes may have been caused by other childhood events or events later in the individual’s adult life, particularly given that the vast majority (thirty-seven of forty) of the outcomes measured were adult and not childhood outcomes. Factors other than same-sex parenting are likely to explain these negative outcomes in the Regnerus study. Regnerus himself concludes that “I am thus not suggesting that growing up with a lesbian mother or gay father causes suboptimal outcomes because of the sexual orientation or sexual behavior of the parent.”
In sum, by conflating (1) children raised by same-sex parents with (2) individuals who reportedly had a parent who had “a romantic relationship with someone of the same sex,” and referring to such individuals as children of “lesbian mothers” or “gay fathers,” the Regnerus study obscures the fact that it did not specifically examine children raised by two same-sex parents. Accordingly, it cannot speak to the impact of same-sex parenting on child outcomes.
At this point, anyone who quotes this debunked hack study is either ignorant of its shoddy findings or willfully peddling discredited junk science for political gain. In terms of Mr. Regnerus, it is scandalous that UT hasn’t fired him yet for compromising his academic integrity at the expense of the university’s reputation.
Genuine researchers seek to carefully understand, not callously undermine, the people in which they study. Regnerus and Witherspoon should be ashamed of their patently dishonest and immoral attempts to slime an entire class of people based on their homophobic religious ideology. This is academic fraud of the highest order and should be dealt with as such.