A quick and simple illustration of Mark Regnerus’ ignorance and bias

Timothy Kincaid

November 12th, 2012

In June Mark Regnerus thrust his absurd and fatally-flawed study on the world, claiming that his research clearly revealed that children did better with married parents than with parents of which one had a same-sex relationship, “How Different are the Adult Children of Parents Who Have Same-Sex Relationships?” And anti-gay activists, being little constrained by logic or ethical considerations, pretended that this study (which did not look at same-sex couples) is a scientific condemnation of same-sex couples.

All the while, Regnerus pretended to stand above the fray, never correcting the false interpretations of his study but claiming nevertheless to be the unbiased and honest statistician seeking truth.


I don’t know if Regnerus is a bigot or just a self-important fool. But I do know that he knows virtually nothing about gay people and has little interest in doing so. Regnerus doesn’t study gay people, he looks for validation of his presumptions. And, just in case I needed confirmation of that fact, consider his rant objecting to the National Longitudinal Lesbian Family Study.

The NLLFS employs a convenience sample, recruited entirely from announcements posted “at lesbian events, in women’s bookstores, and in lesbian newspapers” in Boston, San Francisco, and Washington, D.C. As the late family sociologist Steven Nock warned, the level of sample bias such an approach introduces is significant. The lesbian parents whose children are being studied are whiter (94 percent), more educated (67 percent college graduates), of higher socioeconomic status (82 percent held professional or managerial positions), and more politically motivated than lesbians who do not frequent such “events” or bookstores, or who live in cities like San Antonio or Kansas City, or in smaller towns across the country.

Regnerus does make a valid point. The NLLFS is not a statistically valid random sample. It is not demographically representational. And it’s findings are, indeed, limited (though valuable). It’s not his noting these limitations that reveals his ignorance and bias, rather the following bald assumption.

And yet all this is not actually why I think it’s time for the NLLFS to shutter its operation. No, the reason is that its sample — 78 kids growing up in activist households — is no longer a source for valid, reliable information.

Wait, what’s that description again?

78 kids growing up in activist households

Got that? To Mark Regnerus, being a lesbian that participates in a study makes one an “activist”.

Now I am sure that if this were a study of, say, children of Catholics who were recruited at Knights of Columbus events, they would just be “people of faith” or “devout Catholics”. He might note the limitations of studying Catholics who were only recruited at such events, but he would certainly not dismiss the kids as “growing up in activist households”.

It appears that Regnerus falls into the group of people who think that gay people fall into two categories: embarrassed and shame-filled individuals who are trapped in a homosexual lifestyle, and ‘homosexual activists’. And if you go to ‘lesbian events’ and, especially if you participate in a study, you are an activist.

And this is a presumption that no one who actually knows anything about lesbians – or human beings – would make. It does suggest a higher level of social consciousness and a willingness to help a researcher and probably even a desire to make the world a more-informed place. And it may well even indicate a confidence that your family can hold its own. However, many people participate in research who are anything but activists.

But ignorance and bias are not holding Regnerus back, he seems to think that he need know nothing about real lesbians to wage his war on statistical lesbians. And his willingness to broadcast his ignorance and bias do not bode well for his professional future or career.

I hope Mark Regnerus is enjoying his moment in the sun. Because it doesn’t take too much discernment to see that his future is running parallel to that of Paul Cameron.


November 12th, 2012

Both his university the editor/publisher have reviewed his study and failed to find any flaw in the process of peer review and the content of his work. So no retraction, and he retains the credibility of a respected scientific social science journal.

Jimmy Green

November 12th, 2012

Check out Regnerus and Yancey petulant and completely evasive reply to my comment on their blog…


They have the Noble Scholar/Christian Martyr routine down to a science. I love the comment from Regnerus that he is so busy doing his work that he can’t be bothered to worry about how his research is used. He also had the gall to compare Focus on the Family to the HRC!

And then Yancey, an African-American evangelical, pipes in that his work has been cited by White Supremists so basically piss off.

Arg….I am convinced now that Regnerus is just as corrupt and political as Maggie, George, etc. He just makes more of an effort to flatter pseudo-liberals like Saletan at Slate but the result is the same.

The one bit of satisfaction is that I think he is really feeling the heat from the academic community and maybe did not realize how big the blowback would be from so blatabtly violating scientific norms.

Jimmy Green

November 12th, 2012

Here is a copy and paste from the link above. The first bit is me then his reply follows. Smug and condescending would be a generous reading…

Jimmy Green

You are not doing yourself any favors by continuing to misrepresent the findings of your study. As you have admitted in respeonse to SSRJ’s commissioned audit and in mainstream media interviews, your sample group was not “children of gay parents” but children that self-reported one of their parents having had a same sex encounter at any point in their life. However, when addressing conservative audiences, you drop the nuance and make inaccurate comparisons to gay people for what seems to be political, not scientific, purposes. The way you continually frame your project as somehow invalidating decades of previous research by “liberal” sociologists, with the implicit suggestion that there is some all powerful gay conspiracy that has corrupted the science, is transparent to anyone who does not share your a priori religious conviction that gay people are “intrinsically disorderd” and thus their children must be tainted as well.

If you really want to prove you that you had no political intent in this matter, you would stop giving interviews to Focus on the Family and other anti-gay political groups, as well as publically disclaim the use of your work in amicus briefs in same-sex litigation. Prior researchers, like Lisa Diamond and Carol Gilligan, have publically condemned and even given depositions in response to right wing groups distorting their research. You said in your Slate piece that you did not believe your research should be used to deny gay people the right to marry but that it has already been cited in ongoing litigation concerning DOMA and same-sex marriage, along with being cited in every right wing article or blog post that describe gay people in the most disturbing ways, specifically the slander about child abuse.

Many people believe this is what you intended from the start and I don’t see much evidence to disprove that assumption.

Mark Regnerus says:
November 12, 2012 at 3:26 pm


I’m not looking to do myself favors, friend. In this blog post, I’m calling out a long-cited dataset for some significant problems. To be sure, the NFSS has limitations, ones that I’ve admitted. If organizations to whom I’ve given interviews have glossed over those limitations, they do so in spite of my selected words. While other scholars may leap to squash the possible interpretations that people make of their data analyses, I tend not to do that, not for Focus on the Family nor for the Human Rights Campaign, or anyone in between. If a media organization is interested in laying out the complexities of the data, I am open to talking with them. Most, however, have been looking to conduct a hatchet job. I’m not helping out that effort, dude. Finally, I don’t pay much attention to who all is talking about the study, and what they’re saying. (I have a day job that requires attention.) People may believe about me what they wish; they are free to. I will stick by the data, and offer plausible interpretations of it, together with spelling out its limits. Friends and enemies can attest to that. Moreover, I have made the data public–uploaded it to the ICPSR data repository at the University of Michigan in early October. The NLLFS is not public data; never has been, after 20+ years. You are free to wonder what’s going on inside my head (and perhaps wrestle over whether that should even matter) but making data public is a scientific value/principle.



November 13th, 2012

Jimmy, thanks for those excerpts. Talk about dodging responsibility for your research. “I don’t pay much attention to who all is talking about the study, and what they’re saying.” That’s total horsepucky — where’s his interview with Rachel Maddow? Given the role his funder played in the design and execution of the study, his credibility is down the toilet.

(And really — “dude”?)


“. . . his future is running parallel to that of Paul Cameron.”

Wow — harsh. Well-deserved, but harsh.

Regan DuCasse

November 13th, 2012

From the outset, the anti gay never really put much time or funding into ANY comprehensive research or studies that involved a wide and long range of gays and lesbians.
Nor ever considered the diversity within any LGBT.
Their samples were very small, and they’d usually only spend a few months going through materials like obituaries, or medical statistics and marriage rates.
Some of which weren’t even AMERICAN, but from the Netherlands or other countries whose equality was very recent.

If they spoke to any gay people at all, I wonder what inducement they used to get them to reply (either through a questionnaire or phone survey), and then betrayed them by changing up the actual responses.
We know that James Dobson and Tony Perkins are guilty of outright distortions of legitimate work. And they ignored any calls to stop from the researchers.
We also know that some of these research samples didn’t involve gay people at all.
But the abstract results of fatherlessness, or childlessness.
I remember clearly this is how Tony Perkins used this to show that lesbian couples raising children without fathers, leads to a higher rate of criminality and incarceration after a study came out about lack of father relationships increased these pathologies.

Of course, NONE of these inmates reported being raised by lesbians. Even if a few had, they didn’t say so.
And they also pointed out the higher incidence of female cancers in lesbians. Citing that it’s that ‘lifestyle’ that led to it.
In truth, women who’d never had children (gay or straight), were at higher risk of it because ovaries stop production a carcinogenic hormone during pregnancies.
All that was needed was for women to take Depo-Provera a few times in their lifetime to avoid the risk.
Something in the same research, that Perkins and Dobson failed to mention.

Now that equality has been a fact of life and in effect in the US and entire Western nations for nearly ten years, it would seem that all of their protestations and predictions can be ignored now as moot.
The results of gay marriage and parenting is quite evident where anyone cares to know gay parents directly and personally, instead of through statistics and easily manipulated information.
I think the days of lab rat gay people should be over.
It’s ‘see for yourself’ time.
Mores the point, if not from gay families, then those of us who DO know gay people closely and in a very trusted and loving relationship, should be the ones holding the most credibility.
And not anyone like the Mark Regnerus’s or Robert Georges.

Like I always say, why believe a non Jewish, anti Semite about Jews?
So why believe a non gay, anti gay group or funded research about gays?


November 13th, 2012

Jimmy Green,
I saw your comment on Regners’ blog and it was EXCELLENT!! Keep challenging Jimmy we need people like you who can write well and are good analysts to speak up.

I think he is just jealous is all. The Lesbian study gets great press and his “study” was rejected. If you are going to do a study about gay parenting at least compare apples to apples and oranges to oranges, which Regnerus didn’t do. He simply tried to smear gay families by calling someone a Lesbian Mother or a Gay Father on the slimmest of evidence. If a grown up chilsd answered that their mother or father at least one time had a same sex romance he labeled those parents homosexual.

He can bitch about the Lesbian Longitudinal Study all he wants at LEAST they got the parents sexual orientation right, which he never did.

If you think about it, let’s take Regnerus’ error and apply that same error to the Lesbian Longitudinal Study. The error would be that in the Lesbian Longitudinal Study they got the parents sexual orientation wrong, in fact the mothers are heterosexual. See how BIG an error that would be? Yet that is what Regnerus did.

If anybody really wants to delve into the details deeper take a look at this Box Turtle article and look for my comments, I have provided a lot of links to documents on the Regnerus “study”

Regnerus is just jealous that his study was panned and the Lesbian Longitudinal Study is praised. He has got a lot of nerve saying that the Lesbian Study should be shut down. Just to Spite him I hope they keep it going.

Regnerus you will never beat the GUILD!


November 13th, 2012

And Timothy, thanks for writing about this. It was after all Box Turtle that broke this story. There was a lot of news on this Regnerus “study” that BTB didn’t report on over the summer and into the fall. When the President of The American Sociological Association signs a Protest Letter along with +200 other leading Scholars objecting, that would be something I had hoped you would write about. But nevertheless I am pleased to see you back engaging, this is a big study and a big story.

I can’t remember did you write about Brad Wilcox confessing to working on the Research WITH Regnerus? The same Brad Wilcox who was the Program Manager OF THE PROGRAM at Witherspoon Institute who funded Regnerus? And yet Regnerus claims in his original report AND in his rebuttal report that no one from his funding agency was involved in the actual Research? His funder/collabrator publicly confessed (only after Scott Rose via Freedom of Information Act had the proof, oh yeah then he confessed)


Jimmy Green

November 13th, 2012

Thanks StraightGrandmother! I rarely ever comment on the ‘net but I cannot abide the likes of Regnerus and his co-religionists perverting science in the service of a radical anti-enlightenment agenda. I was truly shocked how he the religous right managed to sneak his absurd “study” into a peer reviewed journal when the flaws in the methodology were so apparent. Only when I began to research Regnerus did I discover the existence of this clack of christian sociologists (who are really just the old apologists with graduate degrees) – Loren Marks, Christian Smith, Rodney Stark, Bradley White, etc.

For all the flack Darren Sherkat took for protecting Wright, he has been one of the few sociologists to protest against the influx of confessionally motivated scholars into the field. If you haven’t already, check out his blog http://iranianredneck.wordpress.com/ He doesn’t pull any punches (well, at least when it doesn’t involve James Wright :)

Stay vigilant!

“Prejudices are what fools use for reasons” -Voltaire

Timothy Kincaid

November 13th, 2012


I have a slightly different take on this.

For me it doesn’t matter as much who paid for the study, who reviewed it, who worked on it, who met in the corner of a dark lonely room on it, who likes it, who hates it, who is Catholic and who is not, or anything really else other than one thing: Does this study tell us what Regnerus claims?

It does not. And for really obvious reasons. And so beyond that I’m less concerned about it. And I really don’t want to lend too much credibility to it by getting concerned over the mechanics of its creation.

I’m not saying that you shouldn’t. And it is great that you are doing so; someone needs to document the fraud and deceit.

For me this was a story not because of the wacky behind the scenes nonsense of the Regnerus study, but because he’s branching out. He’s going after the NLLFS. And I doubt he’ll stop there.

I’ll keep covering his excesses and biases. And I may revisit the unorthodox methods of getting published that he pursued (probably as a compilation piece rather than step by step).

So keep up the good work. I will rely on it.

Craig Young

November 15th, 2012

It’s being parroted down here in the context of New Zealand’s Marriage Equality Bill too. I do apologise if US readers experience an odd sense of deja vu, it’s just that the “New Zealand” Christian Right (what remains of it…) is a slavish imitator of the US Christian Right when it comes to propaganda, tactics and strategy.

For example, our “Family First” (sic) seems to be on the Witherspoon Institute mailing list, judging from the number of times that it’s quoted Public Discourse, their inhouse journal. Also, check out the originally named “Protect Marriage” New Zealand:


Craig Young

November 15th, 2012

You might also want to check out the Aussie conservative Catholic Mercatornet website. Does the name “Walter Schumm” ring any bells…?



December 27th, 2012

I’ve been wondering when you guys woill cover Regnerus’s latest foolishness using data pulled out of his study:


In “Porn Use and Same-Sex Marriage” at Public Discourse, Regnerus digs into the data from his dubious Family Structures survey and come up with the suggestion that for young males, watching porn leads to more support for same-sex marriage.

If it were so, this would be the best pro-pornography argument in decades.

Now, Regnerus doesn’t claim directly that watching porn leads young men to support same sex-marriage, but tries to suggest the causality by arguing that it wouldn’t make sense for things to flow in the other direction.

Of course, what he leaves out is that both of the numbers–for same-sex marriage support and for porn usage–are self-reported.

Regnerus concludes: “In the end, contrary to what we might wish to think, young adult men’s support for redefining marriage may not be entirely the product of ideals about expansive freedoms, rights, liberties, and a noble commitment to fairness,”

Rather than porn consumption leading to support for same-sex marriage, isn’t it at least as likely that a “commitment to expansive freedoms, rights and liberties” would precede both support for your gay friends marrying and for yourself and others to view porn (and a willingness to admit how much you view), whereas a commitment to certain kinds of religious authority would make you less supportive of both (and more likely to underestimate or understate your porn consumption).

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