BREAKING: Regnerus Same-Sex Parenting Study Never Meant to Study Same-Sex Parenting

Rob Tisinai

March 11th, 2013

Mark’s Regnerus’ study on same-sex parenting was never meant to study same-sex parenting, and the agreement that funded it did not specify that he should make any effort to do so.

That’s a shocker. Even if you’ve been following this from the beginning…that’s a shocker.

The University of Texas has begun releasing documents concerning the study and the agreement for its funding. Here’s a screen-grab from Appendix A of that agreement, specifying which three groups the study should focus on:


Click to enlarge

Having trouble reading it? These are the three groups [emphasis added]:

  1. Lived with a parent who had a romantic relationship with a member of the same gender (whether the romantic relation lived with the respondent [i.e., the child] or not)
  2. Lived with an adoptive parent who was neither related by biology nor marriage
  3. Lived with a single biological parent who lived with a member of the other gender but did not marry

Do you see what’s missing from that list? Children who were raised by same-sex parents. This study on same-parenting never required Regnerus to find — or even look for — children raised by same-sex parents.

This is enormous. Both Regnerus and a slew of anti-groups have presented his work as a revelation in the study of same-sex parenting. The National Organization for Marriage lies about this consistently, and Regnerus talked about his results this way in an interview with Kathryn Jean Lopez at the National Review:

LOPEZ: What is the reigning academic view of children in same-sex families? How does this study depart from that view? Do you anticipate engagement from academia?

REGNERUS: No substantive differences, on things that matter. That’s been the emergent view. This study definitely affirms that there is a gold standard [of a married mom and dad].

However, we’ve known from the beginning that Regnerus didn’t report outcomes for same-sex parenting, but for kids with a parent who at some point had a same-sex relationship. Only a small fraction of these kids spent even as little as three years being raised by same-sex parents.

And when Regnerus is asked why he didn’t find more stable, same-sex parenting families he responds, “Well, they just were not that common in the nationally representative population.” But it would have been more honest for him to say, “Reporting stable same-sex parents? Oh, that was never something we planned to do.”

Meanwhile, keep in mind that this is part of the agreement for the study:

Moreover, because there have been no large-scale studies of young adults who have spent time in households with two parents of the same sex, the NFSS seeks to field exactly such a study.

But — and let say this one more time, because it bears repeating and repeating:

Regnerus says he couldn’t report on stable same-sex parented families because he couldn’t find enough, but in fact, from the very beginning, the study never mandated that he even look for them. The parameters for this study on same-sex parenting explicitly state  it does not matter whether the children were raised by same-sex parents.

And in case you think I’m being unfair, remember that the study specified exactly three groups to focus on:

  • When it came to adoptive families, the study mandated that the child live with both those adults.
  • When it came to a parent with an unmarried opposite sex partner, the study mandated that the child live with both those adults.
  • But when it came to a parent with a same-sex partner, the study mandated…nothing at all about the child living with both those adults.

So now we know: no matter how Regnerus tried to spin his work after its release, this alleged study on same-sex parenting never required that same-sex parents even be located, much less studied. This is damning. Note that I’m not throwing an ad hominem attack at the researchers, the funding sources, or the publicists. None of those people matter to the validity of this critique. No, this is a case of the study damning itself, not in its conclusion or its implementation, but much earlier than that. The study damns itself from the beginning, in the tainted agreement that kicked the whole thing off.


March 11th, 2013

I haven’t read every single interview Mark Regnerus gave, obviously, but in the ones I did read, he was upfront about not having studied children raised by same-sex couples.

However, I don’t think it should matter what the intent / plan was – anyone can look at the study and see that it doesn’t study same-sex couples.


March 11th, 2013

I don’t think Regnerus himself was touting the same-sex parenting line, but he wasn’t disputing it — until backed into a corner by criticisms of the methodology. That doesn’t really matter — the study served its purpose for the anti-marriage crowd’s PR. As far as SCOTUS is concerned, the APA, et al., devoted a section of their amicus brief specifically to debunking Regnerus. And if the “defenders of marriage” bring it up in oral arguments, they are going to get shot down, big time.

Look at it this way — Witherspoon and Bradley spent nearly $800,000 on a big flop.


March 11th, 2013

In keeping with their religious fanaticism and focus on “homosexual behavior” while downplaying identity, they probably think that simply having a gay parent is an issue. Not whether a child is actually raised by two people of the same gender.

Rob Tisinai

March 11th, 2013

I’ve updated the post to show how Regnerus was presented his work and its relevance to same-sex parenting in early interviews.

Bose in St. Peter MN

March 11th, 2013

I’m appreciating the latest reporting for some answers as to how Regnerus managed to operate in such isolation from other researchers.

He started with a target of reaching 1,000 people raised in same-sex households, 1,000 in adoptive families, and 1,000 in hetero-married families. Competent researchers told him that was a laughable target (though nicely).

It wasn’t that he threw that out as one of many options to put on a whiteboard in an early brainstorming session, to be shot down by other team members as naive and amateurish. He put it out to researchers he was hoping would collaborate with him.

And according to colleagues in his own department — including people with expertise in researching LGBT populations — he not only avoided bringing them into conversations about his work, they were unaware of the study until after it was published.

So, competent folks ran from having their names associated with the Regnerus/Witherspoon project, and/or were kept in the dark.


March 11th, 2013

Regnerus actually reached out to other, more progressive, researchers and thus attempted to make the study’s background appear less biased. Thankfully they didn’t fall for it.


March 11th, 2013

The quote Rob updated the post with (thanks) comes from an interview I hadn’t read before, so I skimmed it, and I think this is an even clearer example of misrepresentation:

Regnerus:”…kids raised in a same-sex household were more likely to experience instability and shifting household arrangements.” (emphasis mine)

In the interviews I read, the interviewer asked him whether he was studying same-sex parents, while this interviewer assumes he did. That’s probably why his answers are much more biased in this one.

Steve: Regnerus actually reached out to other, more progressive, researchers and thus attempted to make the study’s background appear less biased. Thankfully they didn’t fall for it.

Sorry, Steve, I couldn’t disagree more. Researchers should seek out the input of people who have different views and biases. Do you really think echo chambers produce good science?


March 11th, 2013

It depends on the motivations. Regnerus never intended to conduct proper science or get unbiased results. He only sought out other people to give himself a veneer of impartiality.


March 11th, 2013

Everyone would benefit from reading the very extensive article on Sociologist Phillip Cohen’s blog.

Additionally one aspect not being widely reported is that Regnerus lied in his report about working independently. You can see some of the docs for yourself here

I feel that lying in a research report merits retraction, we’ll see how that goes.

Michael C

March 11th, 2013

Hunter – “Witherspoon and Bradley spent nearly $800,000 on a big flop.”

I disagree and I’m guessing Witherspoon would as well. The findings of the Regnerus paper were widely reported and (especially by Christian websites) repeated over and over for months and months. Even if the paper is ignored by SCOTUS, it was irreparably ingrained in the court of public opinion. I’m fairly certain NO Christian website will report the latest findings on the study and it appears NOM has even blocked the name “Regnerus” from appearing in it’s comment section.

For $800,000, this paper has done a world of damage for gay couples in the public sphere.


March 11th, 2013

Damning, but not shocking.

I don’t think everyone on the other side even comprehends what’s wrong with this; either with starting research with the conclusion predetermined, or with taking all bad outcomes that can possibly have “gay” attached anywhere and deciding, therefore, that that was the cause.

After all, look how they treat the story of the destruction of Sodom, as if it were obvious beyond dispute that the problem with getting together all the men of a city to gang-rape visitors is that both attackers and victims were male.


March 11th, 2013

May I ask a question?

As I understand it, Regnerus said he set up his study in this way because he couldn’t find enough households where the kids were raised continuously by long-term same-sex couples. So he had to resort to looking at any household where one of the parents had a same-sex relationship. This resulted in that group having a lot of broken/divorced households.

So my question is, if Regnerus had to do the study in this way in order to get a larger sample, why wouldn’t he ensure that the comparison group – the households where no one had a same sex relationship – had similar rates of divorce and separation? In other words, why not factor out divorce/separation by ensuring that both groups were evenly matched? Then you could look to see if there were still disparities between the 2 evenly matched groups.


March 11th, 2013

I’d say I was shocked… but then I remember the general character of the people and groups who have been using this study as their “evidence” and what their motivations are, I can’t really say I’m the least bit shocked…

Actually, the whole thing reminds me somewhat of this scene from “My Cousin Vinny”


March 11th, 2013

Regnerus is an unethical charlatan. He should be disciplined by the University of Texas.

See the blog at, where Claude Summers says that the documents indicate that the only intent of the biased study was to create a facsimilie of scholarship that could be used in judicial proceedings to argue that there was a “rational” reason to ban same-sex marriage.


March 11th, 2013

Why thank you Jay I will go do that.


March 11th, 2013

Becky- because he is dishonest.


March 11th, 2013

How can it be that this revelation does not also lead to a retraction of the study by journal editor James Wright? While Regnerus is a charlatan, if Wright had been just a little more diligent as editor, it’s entirely possible the paper never would have seen the light of day, at least in time for the Supreme Court cases.


March 12th, 2013

This Mark Regnerus saga just never ends, and it keeps getting worse…

I’ve even read and took part in discussions about it in Russian. And alas, I’ve read this sample of Russian sensational “journalism” too (Google translate managed Russian-to-English pretty decently this time, never mind what he does to Regnerus’ name):

This study is doing harm even where it wasn’t originally meant to do it.


March 12th, 2013

Are there attempts being made to organize for this professor’s censure? There is a queer student alliance on that campus. Are they aware of his work? This to me sounds like it is worthy of serious grassroots protesting.

If he were a psychologist, I would suggest going to the APA about him. Since he’s a sociologist, is there a professional organization responsible for his membership in good standing in that profession?


March 12th, 2013

“However, I don’t think it should matter what the intent / plan was – anyone can look at the study and see that it doesn’t study same-sex couples.”

Well, the problem is, most people don’t read scientific studies. They just remember what they read or heard _about_ them.

Just read the first sentence in this article in the Daily Mail: “A professor who came under attack over a critical research paper about children of gay-marriages will not be fired after being backed up by his school.”

Of course the Daily Mail is not a scientific paper, it is not a quality paper either, but it is read bei a huge number of people.


March 12th, 2013

@Becky: “… why not factor out divorce/separation by ensuring that both groups were evenly matched?”

This would be obvious to you and me and probably many others, too, but not to Mark Regnerus. In his second paper (published in the November issue of SSR) he writes:

“The most consistent criticism is that the original study’s analyses ‘‘compare apples to oranges’’. That is, the primary comparison is between LM/MLRs, GF/FGRs, and intact biological families (IBFs), and that given prevalent instability in the NFSS sample of the former pair’s households, that to compare them to IBFs is to cause the former pair to look poorly. However, if stability is a key asset for households with children, then it is sensible to use intact biological families in any comparative assessment” and then goes on to cite Rosenfeld who said that most studies on the topic did not include “a more traditional family control group built into the study”


March 12th, 2013

Becky — he did factor out divorced and separated families — and put them in the “gay parents” group.

The bit about not being able to find enough intact gay families is total BS — people have been doing studies in this area for thirty years and more and have managed to find intact gay families. It should be even easier now.


March 12th, 2013

@Hunter: Yes and no. It is easy to find intact gay families if you approach them via community groups or rely on a snowball-system. It is not easy to find them in a random sample of 3000 people.
You would need a *huge* random sample to find 20 or 50 adult persons raised by a same-sex couple in it. (That’s why nobody has done it.)


March 12th, 2013

Jutta has nailed it precisely. In fact if you read the released docs, and Sofia Resnick released the docs, particularly look at the 3rd group, you will see that Regnerus was told by ABt data that he would NOT get a true random sample of ppl raised by ss parents.

He was told by Knowledge Networks who did the survey for him, he was told by Dr. Abbie Goldberg (Clark I think) and Dr. Michael Rosenfeld (Stanford) that he would NOT get a true random sample of adults who had been raised by a same sex couple. So HE KNEW THIS, but he continued anyway cuz hey, that is what he was being paid to do.

Not only that, Knowledge Networks did a pilot for him so he knew after the pilot he would NOT have a true random sample. This is why he put everybody in one bucket called the Lesbian mothers bucket, no matter if they were raised by a single mother or a divorced mother or true same sex mothers, he HAD to do it this way because he did NOT get a true random sample. AND he KNEW he would never have a true random sample.

Salon Article –

Regan DuCasse

March 12th, 2013

Thank you Jutta and Becky. Regnerus could have made a comparison study of similar broken homes and impact on the children with op sex couples. He could have found op sex samples easily enough, but he wasn’t going to bother with that.
We’re fairly sure the outcomes would have been similar whether the parents were gay or not.
It’s broken homes that make things difficult for children, not the orientation of the parents.
And as for the LIE that he couldn’t have found enough samples of INTACT gay parent couples, as Jutta said, community groups could have participated. UCC or MCC churches or temples. COLAGE which is a support org. for the children of gay parents. Or PFLAG.
This was lazy, slip shod work. And Jennifer Roback Morse cited Regnerus when she went before the IL legislature. Fortunately a credentialed psychiatrist explained that would happen, and how Regnerus had already been refuted.
But when any of us talks to someone committed to discrimination, they dismiss and deny any form of evidence and facts our side has. As if it’s all a conspiracy of deception.
And no matter how ludicrous a testimony, the anti gay keep inserting and asserting themselves as the credible and irrefutable experts on all things homosexual as well as most able to see through said deception by gays.

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