American Sociological Association Takes On Regnerus Study in Prop 8 Brief

Jim Burroway

March 1st, 2013

Another Amicus brief filed with the U.S. Supreme Court urging the court to strike down California’s Prop 8 comes from the American Sociological Association, which tackles the social science arguments made by Prop 8 supporters. After noting that many of Prop 8 proponents’ briefs includes citations of the the study by Mark Regnerus — which, by mixing apples with elephants, came to the unsupported conclusion that children raise by “gay” and “lesbian” parents — his terms — fared poorly when compared to those raised by intact, never-divorced, never-adopted heterosexual families — the ASA set about to destroy that argument. Here is that section in full (PDF: 214KB/42 pages):


The Regnerus study—the principal study relied on by the amici of BLAG and the Proposition 8 Proponents—did not specifically examine children raised by same-sex parents, and provides no support for the conclusions that same-sex parents are inferior parents or that the children of same-sex parents experience worse outcomes.

The Regnerus Study Offers No Basis for Conclusions About Same-Sex Parents

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.” Regnerus 2012a at 75. 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. Id. 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. . Id. at 757 (the comparison group consisted of individuals who “[l]ived in intact biological famil[ies] (with mother and father) from 0 to 18, and parents are still married at present”). 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. Id. at 756. 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. Id.

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.” Id. at 766.

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.  Accordingly, it cannot speak to the impact of same-sex parenting on child outcomes. As discussed above, amici in support of BLAG and the Proposition 8 Proponents have themselves rejected such “inappropriate comparisons” between stable and unstable family structures, see Brief for American College of Pediatricians at 4-5, as did the district court in Perry, see 704 F.Supp. 2d at 981 (studies that make apples-to-oranges comparisons are of no moment).

The “Re-Stated” Regnerus Study Offers No Basis for Conclusions About Same-Sex Parents

Regnerus acknowledged the merit of a series of scholarly critiques regarding underlying aspects of his research and subsequently published a second analysis of the data. Among others, a group of over one hundred social scientists signed an article faulting the Regnerus study for failing to take account of family structure and family instability. Gary J. Gates et al., Letter to the Editor and Advisory Editors of Social Science Research, 41 Social Science Research 1350 (2012). The article specifically criticized the Regnerus study’s failure to “distinguish between the impact of having a parent who has a continuous same-sex relationship from the impact of having same-sex parents who broke-up from the impact of living in a same sex step-family from the impact of living with a single parent who may have dated a same-sex partner.” Id. Regnerus tried to remedy the fact that his initial published research did not analyze whether the children had actually lived with the parent who, according to the adult child, had at some point, been “romantically involved” with someone of the same sex. See Mark Regnerus, Parental Same-Sex Relationships, Family Instability, and Subsequent Life Outcomes for Adult Children: Answering Critics of the New Family Structures Study with Additional Analyses, 41 Social Science Research 1367, 1369 (2012) (“Regnerus 2012b”).

Nevertheless, Regnerus’s follow-up analysis does not resolve the problems inherent in his initial analysis and contains many of the same shortcomings. The follow-up analysis maintained the flawed and extremely broad definition of what constitutes “lesbian mothers” and “gay fathers”—a mother or father who ever had a romantic relationship with someone of the same-sex during the period from the birth of the child until the child turned eighteen (or left home to be on their own). Id. at 1368. Accordingly, Regnerus’s analysis continues to ignore stability as a factor in child outcomes—a factor that explains many of the differences among its subjects. And Regnerus still fails to account for the duration of time spent with a mother who was “romantically involved” with a same-sex partner and that partner. See id. at 1372. Only two of the eighty-five children who at some point lived with a mother who was “romantically involved” with another woman reported that they did so for the entire duration of their childhood. Finally, Regnerus’s follow-up analysis is still not reflective of same-sex parenting because Regnerus could not remedy the fact that he recorded experiences that occurred either during the time the child lived with his or her mothers’ same-sex partner or during another childhood time period.

If any conclusion can be reached from Regnerus’s study, it is that family stability is predictive of child wellbeing. As Regnerus himself notes, family structure (for instance whether the family has a single parent or two parents), matters significantly to child outcomes. Regnerus 2012a at 761. As the social science consensus described in Part I demonstrates, the evidence regarding children raised by same-sex parents overwhelmingly indicates that children raised by such families fare just as well as children raised by opposite-sex parents, and that children raised by same-sex parents are likely to benefit from the enhanced stability the institution of marriage would provide to their parents and families. All told, the Regnerus study, even as revised, does not undermine the consensus that children raised by same-sex parents fare just as well as those raised by opposite-sex parents.

BTB was the first to debunk Regnerus’s study. Our review came out just before news of the study broke in theDeseret News. Rob Tisinai’s reaction can be foundherehere and here; Timothy Kincaid’s reaction is here and here. Regnerus’s response to a BTB reader can be found here. Flaws found in an independent audit of the study can be found here. You can follow everything we’ve posted about the study by following this tag.


March 1st, 2013

NO LONGER can anyone use the Mark Regnerus research as scientific evidence to deny equal civil rights to sexual minorities, no longer can anyone cite this research, *unopposed*.

Tuesday night this week the Illinois General Assembly Executive Committee took Testimony whether to send a Civil Marriage for Sexual Minorities Bill out to the Floor of the Assembly. Since it wasn’t the full Assembly they only took a few witness testimonies. They only took like 3 or 4 from each side. The MAIN one for the side who wants to continue Marriage Discrimination was Jennifer Roback Morse CEO of the Ruth Institute, an organization of the National Organization for Marriage.

Listen to her trying to persuade the legislators that gays make bad parents, based on this invalid Mark Regnerus study. Just listen to her, she goes on and on and on. She is putting the FEAR of gay parenting into the legislators

Her testimony starts at 34:55
It is blatant misrepresentation and FEAR Mongering, that is their trademark. This was TUESDAY NIGHT.

JRM starts @ 34.55

Because of the American Sociological Association and the scholarship of Dr. Manning, No Longer will anybody be able to fear monger gay parents UNOPPOSED, based on Social Science Research.

I am deeply appreciative of the work that the bloggers on BTB do day in and day out. You can’t tell in advance where a particular article you write will eventually lead to. I know I could never be a blogger, it’s to hard.

Because you do what you do day in and day out sometimes something extraordinary happens. I think this ASA brief qualifies as extraordinary. I doubt if this ASA brief would ever have happened if BTB had not first raised the story early on, like you did, and then stayed with the story. By bringing the story to your readers *early on* the gay community together with their straight supporters were able to get the word out right away, not playing catch up weeks or months later when the (false) first impression was left.

No, we learned from Paul Cameron, you gotta nip scientific lies in the bud, not let it take root. Thanks guys for everything you do day in and day out and specifically your part of making this ASA brief happen. And the readers here, you all inspire me with your reasoning and comments.

Regan DuCasse

March 1st, 2013

I don’t know how many times I’ve said this to the anti gay, but there is no competence, morality, fertility or endurance tests to marry or parent. Only state adoption has requirements and considerations of environments, but only a few states still have bans on adoption by gay parents, but not FOSTER care.
The anti gay require this test for gay couples, even though discrimination has been in place without it.
They are straining rationality and the powers of gov’t to do what it absolutely cannot and does not do.
Which is to ensure and enforce that a child has married, biological parents for the entire of their lives.
To ensure and enforce that the sex that conceives that child is practiced.
And the gov’t can do neither by discriminating against gay couples and THEIR children.

There is nothing in their defense of discrimination that can apply to their stated intent and purpose.
They insist that no good can come from marriage equality, but the truth is, no good has come from marriage discrimination.
It’s not hard to see that these people hadn’t considered the possibility that they are debating people who figured that out, and are supremely smarter than they are about discussing it.


March 1st, 2013

You’re no shrinking violet yourself, StraightGrandMother. I just re-read some of the comments in the link suggested above from June of last year. You did a wonderful job too.

Ben in Oakland

March 1st, 2013

Thank you, grandma. Your perseverance paid off.

To anyone reading this, SGM was instruments in all of this. The entire gay community owes her and Scott Rose a tremendous amount.


March 1st, 2013

Thank you, Box Turtle Bulletin. And thank you, StraightGrandmother. There’s a chair for you at our dining room table any time.


March 1st, 2013

Ben, I think instrumental as far as I am concerned might be an overstatement. I did what any normal concerned citizen would do appealing through normal ASA officials. But I will say, I was persistent ;)

I am unaware of anything Scott Rose did, or didn’t do, as far as an Amicus Brief, but he sure did a lot of other investigating didn’t he? He uncovered a lot of incriminating information. And Sofia Resnick at the American Independent she exposed quite a bit also.


March 1st, 2013

This ASA response impressively takes Regnerus apart piece by piece, and its prominent positioning in the SCOTUS record will ensure that it is brought to the floor by every anti-gay activist citing the Regnerus study.

Grandmother, you’re my hero. I know how much work and time and passion and energy you put into calling out the Regnerus study since the day it was published. Your tireless efforts have been extraordinary, and I hope you know that you have made a tangible impact for gay families at this crucial moment. I think you have a place at any of our tables.

No small amount of additional damage was done to the study by comments made by the author and editor outside the paper in direct communication in response to folks like SGM, many of whom were alerted to the research and its flaws by BTB. SGM and BTB, without your efforts, we might not have them on the record before they regrouped and came up with self-serving responses.

BTB has done amazing work on Reparative Therapy and the Ugandan KTG Bill. Being the first to alert the public to this deeply flawed research, and then shepherding a concerted response to it, is another big achievement for BTB.


Bernie Keefe

March 1st, 2013

I enjoyed reading the briefs from all the medical/psych associations, esp how the ASA pummeled the Regnerus study. What is even sweeter is how it is directly footnoted to the brief submitted by the FRC.
I was surprised that AAP did not distinguish itself from the ACP(American College of Pediatricians, the bogus 200 member org that feeds NARTH and the FRC all their junk science). The AAP had done that in its brief to the 9th circuit court.
It is my belief that the ACP is far more dangerous than the Regnerus study. Regnerus was debunked from the word go. The ACP still has that mask of credibility, that must be unveiled.

Regan DuCasse

March 2nd, 2013

Straightgrandmother, I too want to lend my gratitude to your stalwart investigation of the Regnerus study. You are my shero and I hope we can talk on the phone or meet one day! xoxo

Marc Paul

March 2nd, 2013

Hats off to BTB, SGM, Scott Rose and many others incl. ASA, culminating in public takedown of the this deeply flawed study.

But even now, the study is being used by Lively and others in other countries to justify anti-gay discrimination.

Regnerus’ choice of ‘categories’ was a heinous lie.

How do you like them apples and oranges, Mark?


March 8th, 2013

Since this is the last post about Regnerus for now, please take a look at this. I am not trying to self-promote, but I wanted to more or less clearly show what is going on.

Regnerus’ study has reached Ukraine and Russia. And it’s played up by the usual suspects there – local Evangelicals. And it goes further than even Regnerus went.


March 9th, 2013

(Just a french guy passing by…)
Since ten months or so we have in France a harsh debate about “opening marriage & adoption to same-sex couples”; the law has been adopted by the 1st Chamber (“National Assembly”) some weeks ago and will be discussed soon at the Senate.

You probably can’t imagine how many times that Regnerus… thing has been touted by outraged opponents (mostly Catholics and right-winged politicians).
Numerous propaganda french sites(†) keep on telling that *it does address* the subject of same-sex parenting and that it *proves* the dangers of being raised by gay or lesbian parents; even a psychiatrist, in auditions conducted by MPs at the National Assembly, has cited Regnerus to prevent against the project.

Thus we look at this case very closely and the ASA brief is real good news.

(†) Even that french-speaking Regnerus’ @$$ licker has engaged the battle via a recent blog ( ☹


March 10th, 2013

By the way… one more amicus brief (1st March):

(don’t miss pp 29-33!)

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