Dear Dr. Regnerus…

Rob Tisinai

February 27th, 2013

I’ve sent this message to Mark Regnerus. I’ll let you know whether I hear back.

Dear Dr. Regnerus,

I write to inform you of an urgent problem: The National Organization for Marriage (NOM) is misrepresenting your research for its political campaign. As a serious scholar, you will surely want to ask them to correct this misuse of your work.

NOM’s “Rhode Island for Marriage” website* is telling people that according to your recent study:

  • Adults who were raised by a mother and a father are almost twice as likely to be employed full time compared to adults who were raised by a lesbian couple.
  • Adults who were raised by a lesbian couple are nearly 4 times as likely to be on public assistance compared to adults who were raised by a mother and a father.

Of course, your study says nothing of the sort. As you’re well aware, these are not the outcomes for children raised by lesbian couples, but for children whose mothers had a same-sex relationship at some point in their lives. Far from being the result of same-sex parenting, these disadvantaged children were mostly the products of broken heterosexual relationships. Only a small fraction of them spent even as little as three years being raised by same-sex parents.

More to the point: Your paper did not isolate outcomes for children of same-sex parents, so NOM is wrong to draw any numerical conclusions for that family structure from it.

You can see why I’ve alerted you to this problem. NOM is violating the integrity of your work.Your quick action would benefit not just the cause of civil discourse and effective public policy, but would help NOM itself. At this point, the Southern Poverty Law Center does not list NOM as a hate group, because the SPLC doesn’t designate an organization as such merely for opposing same-sex marriage. According the SPLC’s website:

“Generally, the SPLC’s listings of these groups is based on their propagation of known falsehoods — claims about LGBT people that have been thoroughly discredited by scientific authorities — and repeated, groundless name-calling.”

NOM, obviously, is now straying into this area with its clear misrepresentation of your work and is putting itself at risk of being designated a hate group. It’s possible that NOM is merely in error, that it is not propagating a known falsehood, and that it has simply misread your work. You could assist them greatly by pointing this out to them.

I look forward to your response.

With much appreciation,
Rob Tisinai


Lindoro Almaviva

February 27th, 2013



Oh the sweet sound of silence…..

Ben In Oakland

February 27th, 2013

Regenerus made this statement, reported in huffpost late last year. He has made similar statements in the past.

“I’d be more careful about the language I used to describe people whose parents had same-sex relationships,” Regenus told the magazine. “I said ‘lesbian mothers’ and ‘gay fathers,’ when in fact, I don’t know about their sexual orientation; I do know about their same-sex relationship behavior.” He also noted: “Finding someone whose parent had some sort of same-sex relationship as they were growing up is like trying to find a needle in a haystack.”

In other words, it wasn’t about gay parents becuase HE DIDN’T KNOW THEIR SEXUAL ORIENTATION. He didn’t know about their same-sex relationship behavior, only that they had committed a homosexual act at some point. He could have found plenty of same sex couples raising children, but clearly chose not to find that pile of needles in a tiny haystack. Contrary to what NOM claims, HE DIDN’T STUDY CHILDREN RAISED IN A SAME SEX UNION, but children raised in mixed-orientation marriages, be definition, UNSTABLE.

For anyone who is defending this piece of garbage as somehow scientific, or who just doesn’t understand English: HE’S ADMITTING THAT HE DIDN’T STUDY WHAT HE CLAIMS TO HAVE STUDIED.

I’m sure he will be telling NOM at any moment not to distort his research.

Any moment.

Any moment.

Any moment.

Jim Hlavac

February 27th, 2013

Now hoisting the petard for info fabricator — Regnerus distorts data, NOM distorts the distortion — it can’t get any wackier, can it? Hmm.


February 27th, 2013

Ben in Oakland: That Regnerus quote is NOT saying he didn’t study what he claims to have studied. He’s just admitting that his labels are misleading.

And to be frank, that’s not my main beef – he had to label his categories something, and he’s far from the first person to use “gay” and “lesbian” as catchalls for everyone who’s so much as experimented with the same sex. Look at how people call any two men or two women in a relationship a “gay couple,” even if both partners are bisexual.

Jimmy Green

February 27th, 2013

Good luck Rob – I’ve already tried to shame him on his own blog about his silence in response to the nefarious use of his “study” by political actors on the right. His flippant response was much as I expected – a feigned concern tinged with the requisite “I am just a mere Catholic scholar martyred by the liberal press/academy” meme. Luckily, I think he and his revanchist funders underestimated both the near universal withering academic criticism and blowback in the popular media. I hope he at least gets a full plenary indulgence from the Church for sacrificing his academic integrity – no serious journal editor will ever give him such leeway in future peer review.

Here is the link – my comment is first followed by both Regnerus and Yancey in high dudgeon:

Jimmy Green says:
November 12, 2012 at 1:47 pm

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.


Jimmy Green

February 27th, 2013

Along the same lines, check out a lecture Sherkat (an amazing sociologist who has been doing genuine work on gay rights for years and also was the auditor for the journal in question) gave about the underlying factors in the field and the culture of peer reviewed journals that led to the Regnerus debacle. Basically, a shift in the source and amount of funding began in the late 70s/early 80s has distorted the objectivity in subtle and not so subtle ways – a combination of the slashing of public non-partisan funding for sociology and the influx of private funding by the New Right though its parallel pseudo-academic system of think tanks and foundations. This reflects what I have been noticing in the last 20 years or so as the enlightenment consensus in the superiority of objective facts derived through the scientific method and reflected in sound quantitative methodology has been challenged by strains of anti-positivism questioning the very notion of objectivity and introducing more theory laden narratives into the literature. Unfortunately, this has opened the door to the a priori assumptions and biases of faith and religion that the rigors of scientific naturalism had previously safeguarded into many of the softer social sciences to the point where I have very little confidence in the value of knowledge production in sociology, anthropology, and to a lesser extent psychology.

Watch if you want to be depressed…

Youtube video link:


February 28th, 2013

Just for the record about the worldwide reception of his study: this week I heard a tv-discussion on Austrian TV about adoption for same-sex couples in which one participant mentioned “recent studies from the USA that showed that prior studies were unreliable because they used small and selfselecting samples” (my translation)

If anyone here understands German and wants to listen

The direct link will probaly not work but you can use the search field on top of the page to search for “Im Zentrum”.

The reason for the discussion was a recent deciscion of the European Human Rights Court (X and others v. Austria).


February 28th, 2013

Very Good Rob, very good job. Sometime today the American Sociological Association will be putting up on their website their Amicus Brief they are filing in the Supreme Court Prop 8 and DOMA cases.

They will be taking the Regnerus research head on and and declaring to the Court that there is NO DIFFERENCE in the outcomes for children between opposite sex parents and same sex parents.

One other point, Regnerus himself misrepresents his research, he claimed unequivocally that opposite sex parents are the “Gold Standard” of parenting. He lies, his research never found nor did he study same sex couples who had planned children together. He can NOT claim a Gold Standard when he did NOT compare children who were raised all their lives by their same sex parents to opposite sex parents similarly situated. Here read his “Gold Standard” quote here-

Paul Mc

February 28th, 2013

My comments awaiting moderation on that blog:

Interesting choice of analogy. Choose a group from the normative tradition of western societies and you’d most likely find outcomes consistent with normative western societies. Choose from the non-normative tradition of same sex couples, however self-selecting the methodology, a group that has been told at times they are inherently disposed to child abuse, that having the children is intrinically abusive, a group that has their rights proscribed and prescribed for millenia, a group without wide poltical support until very recently, who are very often estranged from wider support networks such as family and church etc. then you find child outcomes as good if not better than their heterosexuals peers? Now that is truly a sociological study worth doing For the first time, no one can say homosexuals ‘can’t’ bring up kids, they can only say, ‘some’ homosexuals can bring up kids. Nevertheless it is a radical finding, unlike your study which suffers terribly from confirmation bias (what, you didn’t go looking for that outcome? Yur funders thought they would find LBGT parents are just as good? Don’t even go there).

You need to realise – nothing is in a vacuum “I will stick by the data, and offer plausible interpretations of it, together with spelling out its limits.”

No-one is listening to the interpretations limitations. And they won’t listen until you speak out louder.

“I’m not helping out that effort, dude.”

Intellectual abdication, nothing less. Own it.

Paul Mc

March 1st, 2013

Jut read the ASA amicus curiae brief demolishing the study.

Response to Regnerus springs to mind:

“How do you like those apples and oranges?”


March 1st, 2013

After Regenerus received the full Scott Rose treatement, I doubt he’ll be responding to much of anything from “the gay press.”

Reader from Bosnia

March 1st, 2013

Correct me if I’m wrong, but Regnerus signed Amici curiae against same-sex marriage in which he himself misrepresents his research

Rob Tisinai

March 1st, 2013

Actually, Reader from Bosnia, that brief doesn’t appear to misrepresent Regnerus’ research. Notice that it never makes claims about the outcomes for kids raised by same-sex parents. In fact, it admits that Regnerus wasn’t able to get a sample size big enough to make such claims.

Naturally, this is presented in the most unflattering light possible but as far as I can see (and I’ve only skimmed it), it doesn’t actually lie about the Regnerus study the way NOM is doing.


March 2nd, 2013

Reader from Bosnia, that brief makes me question the signers’ (including Regnerus) grasp of the scientific process.

Defending against the “apples to oranges” charge, it states on page 25: “First, ‘if stability is a key asset for households with children, then it is sensible to use intact biological families in any comparative assessment.’ Id. at 1368. Indeed, part of the problem of nearly all previous studies is that they seldom included a married biological family control group.”

A control group isn’t supposed to be a “gold standard.” A control group is supposed to be as close to identical as possible to the experimental group, except in the variable that’s being tested.

This is basic, high school science stuff, and these guys don’t seem to get it.

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