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Posts for August, 2014

Regnerus Has a New “Study” Out. Good For Him.

Jim Burroway

August 12th, 2014

I’m putting the word “study” in quotes because a blog post for the Witherspoon Institute doesn’t count as a published study, despite the Official Looking Chart that goes with it. In this blog post, Mark Regnerus says he created something called a Religion In America survey and found that churchgoing Christians (he doesn’t define what that means) who support marriage equality, when compared to churchgoing Christians who oppose it, are more likely to be open to saying that pornography is okay, premarital cohabitation is okay, no strings attached sex is okay, divorce is okay even if you have kids (for that question, he gives everyone an easy out for an abusive relationship), marriage infidelity is okay sometimes, polyamory is okay, and abortion is okay.

Regnerus’s implication is that all of these are Very Bad Things, and that people who support same-sex marriage are more likely to shrug their shoulders when asked about a range of Very Bad Things than those who oppose same-sex marriage. Gay and Lesbian Christians (notice here he drops “Churchgoing” — is this yet another apples to horse meat comparison that he’s so fond of?) are even more likely to say meh to those Very Bad Things. And for Gay and Lesbian non-Christians, the numbers are off the charts. Speaking of charts, he handily provides this one that others can pull out and repost, shorn of all context and the few caveats he bothers to throw in:

Click to enlarge.

Click to enlarge.

Like I said, this isn’t a study. It doesn’t have any of the hallmarks of a study, not even like those you’ll find in his deliberately flawed study that a low-ranked journal bent over backwards to publish for political reasons. He calls this Religion In America survey “a population-based sample, meaning that its results are nationally representative,” but he doesn’t describe how it came about. For a real study, you can’t just say that and leave it at that. He also doesn’t provide any of the standard tests to show which comparisons are statistically relevant in his chart. Even the lowest ranking journals would reject a study outright if it doesn’t include that critical information. And as I said, he doesn’t define some of his subpopulation categories, and we’ve already seen how he has exploited those definitions to force the results he wants to get. We have ample grounds to question whether he’s up to that old trick again. So until he publishes these results with at least a thin veneer of rigor, there really isn’t much to see here.

But let’s leave all of those methodological questions aside for the moment. And let’s be super-charitable and take it further: let’s accept, just for the sake of argument, that we are looking at a real-life version of the mythological Perfect Study, and that Regnerus has managed to precisely measure people’s attitudes toward some Very Bad Things. What does it tell us?

Regnerus has his take:

Churchgoing Christians who support same-sex marriage look very much like the country as a whole—the population average (visible in the third column). That answers my original question. What would a pro-SSM Christian sexual morality look like? The national average—the norm—that’s what.

…I’m not suggesting any “slippery slope” sort of argument here, implying that a shift in one attitude will prompt lock-step adjustments in others. In reality, our moral systems concerning sex and sexuality tend rather to resemble personalized “tool kits” reflecting distinctive visions of the purpose of sex and significant relationships (and their proper timing), the meaning of things like marriage and gender roles, and basic ideas about rights, goods, and privacy. Americans construct them in quite distinct combinations, often cafeteria-style. Instead, the results might be better interpreted as a simple story of social learning from quite different reference groups — those sets of people we use as a standard of comparison for ourselves, regardless of whether we identify as a member of that group. Indeed, attitude shifts in this domain are probably far more about reference groups than about any sort of individual “evolution” or rational construction of personal values.

He says he’s not making a “slippery slope” argument, but the blog post’s title, “Tracking Christian Sexual Morality in a Same-Sex Marriage Future,” does precisely that. And by taking approval or disapproval of same-sex marriage as the controlling variable, he implies that approval of marriage equality will lead to increased acceptance of a host of other Very Bad Things. It’s reminiscent of what The Weekly Standard’s Stanley Kurtz tried to claim in 2004 when he said that Registered Partnerships in Scandinavia (there was no same-sex marriage at the time) had already led to more divorces, fewer marriages and more out-of-wedlock children, while ignoring the fact that those trends were well in place long before the idea of recognizing same-sex relationships came along. In other words, same-sex marriage (or registered partnerships) was not a controlling variable for those other trends, and there’s no reason to believe it’s a controlling variable for Regnerus’s Very Bad Things here.

Regnerus disavows the “slippery slope” argument, but by using attitudes about same-sex marriage as the controlling variable, it’s going to be hard for other opponents of same-sex marriage to see him saying anything differently. And the argument that he does make — that people get their ideas from the people around them — merely explains how such a slippery slope scenario might work. So let’s not fool ourselves here: he is making the very argument he disavows, which he’s done before. When he published that so-called “gay parenting study” in 2012, he peppered it with a host of caveats:

The NFSS is not a longitudinal study, and therefore cannot attempt to broach questions of causation. … It does not evaluate the offspring of gay marriages, since the vast majority of its respondents came of age prior to the legalization of gay marriage in several states … American courts are finding arguments against gay marriage decreasingly persuasive. This study is intended to neither undermine nor affirm any legal rights concerning such.

But when Regnerus spoke to the press, he resolutely abandoned all of those caveats. My prediction: he’ll do the same with the slipper slope argument. My reaction: good luck with that. Marriage equality opponents have been flailing that dead horse for more than a decade, and there is zero evidence that it has moved the needle one iota in their direction.

So, to recap, Regnerus’s interprests his chart this way: if more and more people, including church-going Christians, continue to come around to supporting marriage equality, then more and more people, including church-going Christians, are going to begin supporting all of those other Very Bad Things. Support gay marriage, and you’re probably going to wind up supporting polygamy. Or anything-goes sex. Or the breakdown of the family through divorce. Or unlimited abortion. And so on.

I guess that’s one way to look at the results — if those results are actually legit. As I said, it’s impossible to assess that from his blog post, but also as I said, I’m willing to close my eyes for the moment and consider what these numbers might mean anyway. And so with all of my caveats firmly stated, it seems that there is a far more logical explanation for his findings:

Those who oppose marriage equality are much more likely to be the kinds of busybodies with Deeply Held Beliefs about how other people should live their lives. They may say they they oppose pre-marital sex, extra-martial sex, no-strings sex, and getting divorced despite having children — for other people — but they will wind up doing those many of those Very Bad Things themselves at rates rather similar to, and in some cases (divorce, for example) higher than many other people, despite what they may say in a survey.

Conversely, those who support marriage equality are more likely to have a healthier, more laissez-faire attitude toward how other people order their lives, and they tend to be much less judgmental of other people. And gays and lesbians, who have experienced a lifetime of busybodies giving them unrealistic, unsolicited edicts in how to order their lives, are the most reluctant of all to turn around and do the same to others. And what about the Population Average? Well, nobody likes a busybody.

Regnerus Shoots His Own Foot

Rob Tisinai

July 21st, 2014

Mark Regnerus has gotten a lot of flack lately for publicly criticizing a positive Australian report on same-sex parenting, a classic example of the pot calling the kettle incompetent. Hidden in his critique, though, is a little nugget that deserves more attention.

Midway through, Regnerus flogs his notions about the instability of same-sex couples, but then tries to substantiate them by linking to research that proves him wrong — and in doing so, brings to light a study that we should all have bookmarked.

So…thanks, Mark!

A bit of background. We lambasted Regnerus, of course, for presenting his famous study as research into same-sex parenting even though he did not specify outcomes for kids raised by same-sex parents, mostly because he hardly studied any kids raised by same-sex parents. His defense was that grown-up kids like that are hard to find because families like that seem to be unstable, and then he turned this alleged instability into further criticism of same-sex parenting.

He pushes this theme again in his recent critique:

Children fare better in an environment of household stability. In the NFSS, stability was largely absent when an adult child reported a parental same-sex relationship. Hence, their life experiences were (on average) notably more challenging than those of their peers with married mothers and fathers. Some critics felt this was an “unfair” comparison. But if social reality is unfair, there’s not much that any sociologist can do about that.

And also:

But will same-sex parents’ relationships be more or less stable in the future? On the one hand, we know that same-sex relationships in general—across multiple datasets—remain more fragile than opposite-sex ones (and to be fair, no group is performing all that well).

That link is in his original, and with that link we strike gold.

It leads to an abstract of a research paper by Stanford professor  Michael Rosenfeld called, “Couple Longevity and Formal Unions in the Era of Same-sex Marriage in the United States.” I was surprised by the last sentence of that abstract:

I hypothesize that the higher relationship instability that was reported for same-sex couples in the past was due in part to the lack of options for union formalization available to same-sex couples in the past.

If true, that would actually undercut Regnerus’ argument. Since he linked to this paper, though, I expected to find the hypothesis debunked. But I found the full text and, my, was I surprised. Check this out. It’s worth reading carefully.

In this paper I show that while same-sex couples in the US are more likely to break up than heterosexual couples (Hypothesis 1), the difference in couple longevity is explained by the lower rate of marriage among same-sex couples. Once marriage (and marriage-like unions) are controlled for, same-sex couples and heterosexual couples have statistically indistinguishable rates of break-up, confirming Hypothesis 2 ["that same-sex couples and heterosexual couples would have similar rates of break-up once marriage was controlled for"]. Despite the fact that none of the same-sex couples in the US in the 2009-2012 period enjoyed the same legal benefits and federal recognition as heterosexual married couples (because of the Defense of Marriage Act of 1996), the association between marriage and couple stability was similar for same-sex couples and for heterosexual couples, confirming Hypothesis 3 ["Marriage has a similar positive association with couple longevity for same-sex couples and for heterosexual couples"].

Emphasis added.

That’s great stuff. It not only demolishes an anti-gay talking point, but also wipes out the many arguments built on that talking point. For years, anti-gays have been spouting irrelevant nonsense like Homosexual relationships generally last only a fraction of the time that most marriages last.” Irrelevant nonsense, because even for heterosexuals, relationships are shorter on average than marriages. In fact, from an arithmetic geek’s perspective, if you have just one pre-marital relationship that’s shorter than your marriage, then your average relationship will last only a fraction of the time of your marriage.

But this Regnerus-recommended paper goes further than that. It doesn’t just knock down nonsense arguments. No, it establishes an affirmative case for the stability of same-sex marriages, and thus for same-sex parenting.

I still have to wonder, though: why did Regnerus link to a study that establishes the opposite of what he’s trying to claim? It’s easy to assume he’s just lying, hoping no one investigates his link, but I always keep a few wonderful quotes in mind:

Never attribute to malice that which is adequately explained by stupidity.

Along with:

You have attributed conditions to villainy that simply result from stupidity

And this wonderful variation on Clarke’s Third Law:

Any sufficiently advanced incompetence is indistinguishable from malice.

I mean, come on — even the abstract the appears when you click Regnerus’ link is enough to raise suspicion that he’s missed the target. My best guess is that he seized on the first sentence in the quote I provided, and found himself so tangled in confirmation bias that he completely missed what followed, even though what followed is the crucial piece of information when it comes to evaluating same-sex families (i.e., marriage and marriage-like unions).

At this point it looks like Regnerus has so thoroughly ruined his scientific credibility that he’s gone into denial over it, and now lives in a self-imposed Dunning-Kruger inability to recognize his own incompetence. Not because he’s inherently stupid, but because a rigorous intelligence would threaten his last bastion of support.

However, even this man’s small tragedy has produced some good. Bookmark that Stanford study, and be ready to offer it up as Regnerus-approved proof that Regnerus is wrong.

Michigan Files Regnerus-Free Marriage Appeal Brief

Jim Burroway

May 8th, 2014

When U.S. District Court Judge Bernard Friedmam declared Michigan’s same-sex marriage ban unconstitutional last March, he spilled considerable ink all over the state’s expert witness, Mark Regnerus, whose discredited Witherspoon-funded “study” purported to show that children of gay couples fared worse than other children. The problem was — and this came out in the cross-examination of the state’s star witness — the study included only two children who were actually raised by gay parents, and Regnerus admitted that they came out “Pretty good.” In his written opinion, Judge Friedman blasted “his 2012 ‘study’ (which) was hastily concocted at the behest of a third-party funder” as “flawed on its face.”

Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette appealed the decision, and in a brief filed with the Sixth District Court of Appeals, he quietly omitted all references to Regnerus’s bogus study, and argued instead that same-sex marriage should be banned not because experts believe that same-sex parents are bad parents, but because voters believe it:

In preserving marriage as between a man and a woman, a reasonable voter might have thought that it is beneficial when children are raised in a home with both a mom and a dad. Another reasonable voter might have thought that this definition encourages those couples with the inherent ability to have children (i.e., opposite-sex couples) to enter into a committed, exclusive relationship, for the benefit of any children they might have. …

This appeal is not about approval or disapproval of same-sex relationships or sexual orientation. Nor is this appeal about a gay or lesbian individual’s ability to be a parent. This case is not about single moms’ and dads’ ability to raise children.  As a society, we wish that all children had loving parents, no matter what their sexual orientation may be.

Because Judge Friedman wrote that he could not find that Michigan voters acted out of animus when approving the state’s constitutional amendment outlawing same-sex marriage, Schuette’s brief takes as its central argument that striking down the constitutional amendment “demeans democracy,” and cites Justice Anthony Kennedy’s opinion in a Supreme Court ruling (Schuette vs BAMN) upholding Michigan’s ban on affirmative action. Singling out Kennedy this way is noteworthy. With Kennedy considered the potential swing vote in any upcoming Supreme Court ruling on marriage equality, this brief was more or less written to Kennedy, rather than to the judges at the Sixth District Court of Appeals:

Justice Kennedy’s admonition on this point in Schuette is worth repeating: “It is demeaning to the democratic process to presume that the voters are not capable of deciding an issue of this sensitivity on decent and rational grounds.” 572 U.S. __, slip op. 17. To put this in perspective, more than 45 million American voters across the country have voted to retain the definition of marriage as between one man and one woman. Respect for the dignity of these millions of voters, who must be presumed to be “decent and rational,” should make courts reluctant to conclude that support for maintaining the definition of marriage is irrational. After all, a decision by this Court that there is no rational basis for Michigan’s voters to have defined marriage as they did necessarily means that not only Michigan’s voters, but more than 42 million other American citizens who have voted the same way, did not have among them a single conceivable rational basis for their votes.

But they’re still not ready to give up their straight-parents-are-the-best argument. They’re just pinning it on voters, and not the experts:

The only question at issue, then, is whether any conceivable reason supports the people’s decision to retain the definition of marriage.  Under the governing standards for rational-basis review, the people’s decision must be given the benefit of the doubt—it must be upheld if their policy choice is at least debatable, and even if it is under-inclusive or over-inclusive (or both).

Defining marriage as between one man and one woman satisfies this test. The State has a legitimate interest in marriage precisely because of marriage’s inherent connection to children. The vast majority of children born in Michigan (and the United States and the world) are born as a result of the sexual union of a man and a woman. Promoting marriage as between a man and a woman thus recognizes that every child should have the opportunity to know and have a relationship with his or her biological mother and father, and it increases the likelihood that the most common type of procreation will occur in a long-term, committed relationship. It was reasonable for Michigan voters to think that this is a beneficial setting for children, and thus to link marriage to procreation—the biological fact that every child has a mother and a father.

Michigan isn’t the only state to drop Regnerus like a hot potato. Two weeks after his study went down in flames in the Michigan case, attorneys for the Utah Attorney General’s office filed a special “Supplemental Authority clarifying position re: Regnerus study” with the Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals in Denver, in which the state disavowed its own citing of the Regnerus study in the original appeals brief filed in February. It looks like the word has gone out: Regnerus’s study is radioactive and the nearly $800,000 spent on it was wasted — unless you count its influence in Russia as a success.

Utah Backs Away from Regnerus Study

Jim Burroway

April 10th, 2014

A brief filed last month by attorneys representing the State of Utah in its same-sex marriage appeal cited Mark Regnerus’s discredited study purporting to show that children raised by gay “parents” fared worse than children raised by straight parents. (In fact, Regnerus’s study consisted of only two children who had been raised from birth by same-sex parents; both children did “pretty good,” Regnerus admitted during his disastrous testimony before a Michigan court.) In the Utah brief, attorneys included Regnerus’s study as demonstrating that “even when they have two caregivers of the same sex, children who grow up without a father or a mother are socialized in a way that undermines their ability to function effectively in a dual-gender society.” They add, in a footnote:

Professor Regnerus’ study has been criticized by advocates of the “moms-and-dads-are-interchangeable” theory. But in his thorough response, he concludes that, even accounting for his critics’ concerns, the data “still reveal numerous differences between adult children who report maternal same-sex behavior (and residence with her partner) and those with still-married (heterosexual) biological parents.

That brief was filed in February. Regnerus was fully shellacked on the witness stand in Michigan a month later. And when the ruling came down that Michigan’s ban on same-sex marriage was unconstitutional,  US District Court Judge Bernard Friedman devoted several pages to smacking down Regnerus’s testimony and study.

So now it looks as though that whole episode has left the Utah lawyers feeling nervous. Yesterday, just a day before this morning’s oral arguments, they filed a “Supplemental Authority clarifying position re: Regnerus study”:

Utah files this supplemental letter in response to recent press reports and analysis of the study by Professor Mark Regnerus, which the State cited at footnotes 34 and 42 of its Opening Brief, and which addresses the debate over whether same-sex parenting produces child outcomes that are comparable to man-woman parenting.

First, we wish to emphasize the very limited relevance to this case of the comparison addressed by Professor Regnerus. As the State’s briefing makes clear, the State’s principal concern is the potential long-term impact of a redefinition of marriage on the children of heterosexual parents. The debate over man-woman versus same-sex parenting has little if any bearing on that issue, given that being raised in a same-sex household would normally not be one of the alternatives available to children of heterosexual parents.

Second, on the limited issue addressed by the Regnerus study, the State wishes to be clear about what that study (in the State’s view) does and does not establish. The Regnerus study did not examine as its sole focus the outcomes of children raised in same-sex households but, because of sample limitations inherent in the field of study at this point, examined primarily children who acknowledged having a parent who had engaged in a same-sex relationship. Thus, the Regnerus study cannot be viewed as conclusively establishing that raising a child in a same-sex household produces outcomes that are inferior to those produced by man-woman parenting arrangements.

So get this: Utah is going to argue that allowing gay people to marry will have a long-term impact on children of heterosexual parents.  Umm, yeah. Good luck with that.

Regnerus claims judge had bias

Timothy Kincaid

April 2nd, 2014

There was, for a brief time, a period in which I was open to argument that Mark Regnerus was a principled researcher whose conclusions were misconstrued by others and whose intent was the advancement of knowledge in the area of family structures. Though he was religious and his research was funded by a conservative organization, that did not preclude him from credibility.

And, indeed, for a while he claimed that he didn’t assert the conclusions that anti-gay media attributed to his paper. Until it became clear that his “not asserting” was a technicality, a game he played so as to advance deception while holding to “but I didn’t personally say it”.

And, following the criticism of his employer and the denunciation by Judge Friedman, the world knows Regnerus to be a charlatan willing to sell his integrity in a futile attempt to forward his anti-gay agenda.

Take, as an illustration, his latest whine in his ongoing effort to portray his dishonesty as a badge of martyrdom. (Anti-gay Catholic website LifeSiteNews)

“I frankly don’t understand why the judge elected to pass on a discussion of some of the very real concerns our research raised,” Regnerus told LifeSiteNews in an e-mail. Regnerus says Friedman “chose to privilege certain scholars as well as research that leaned on self-selected samples.”

“it’s as if raising standard methodological issues on this subject is just unwelcome today, unless it’s clear that you are friendly to the political goals of the same-sex marriage movement.”

Yeah, that’s it. It’s not that your study of children of broken families had no relevance to a case about couples wishing to create intact families. No, it must be judicial bias.

Say bye-bye to your career, Mark. Bye-Bye.

Judge Friedman on Mark Regnerus

Timothy Kincaid

March 25th, 2014

The Michigan trial on the constitutionality of excluding same-sex couples from the rights and responsibilities of marriage was (after Hawaii and California) only the third case to present and try the facts presented by the various sides. And, as such, the ruling by Judge Friedman was important not just for finding the ban unconstitutional but also in its measure of the merits of the arguments presented.

Particularly interesting was US District Court Judge Bernard Friedman’s opinion on the arguments presented by star witness Mark Regnerus, whose “study” comparing children raised in intact heterosexual families to, well, something else, has been touted by anti-gays as their smoking gun.

It’s a bit lengthy, but here it is in its entirety:

In defense of their asserted justifications for the MMA, the state defendants first called sociologist Mark Regnerus. Regnerus’s testimony focused on the results of his 2012 “New Family Structures Study” (“NFSS”), a survey data collection project that was formulated to assess adult outcomes of children who reported that one of their parents had been in a “romantic relationship with someone of the same-sex” during the respondents’ childhood years. Of the 15,000 participants ranging in age from 18 to 39, 248 of them reported that one of their parents had been in such a romantic relationship. From this sample, 175 reported that their mother had a same-sex romantic relationship while 73 reported that their father had been romantically involved with another man. Regnerus then compared the adult outcomes of these two subgroups with another set of participants who were raised by intact biological parents. The outcomes of these groups were significantly different.

Regnerus found that children who reported that their mothers had a same-sex relationship were less likely to pursue an education or obtain full-time employment and more likely to be unemployed and receiving public assistance, more likely to experience sexual assault, more likely to cheat on their partners or spouses and more likely to have been arrested at some point in their past. Similarly, Regnerus discovered that children who reported that their fathers had a same-sex relationship were more likely to have been arrested, more likely to plead guilty to non-minor offenses and more likely to have numerous sexual partners.

Although Regnerus touted the NFSS as one of the few studies to use a large representative pool of participants drawn from a random population-based sample, other sociological and demographic experts, including Rosenfeld and Gates, heavily criticized the study on several grounds. First, it failed to measure the adult outcomes of children who were actually raised in same-sex households. This is because the participants’ household histories revealed that many parental same-sex romantic relationships lasted for only brief periods of time. And many of the participants never lived in a same-sex household at all. Regnerus reported that “just over half (90) of the 175 respondents whose mother had a lesbian relationship reported that they did not live with both their mother and her same-sex partner at the same time.” Id. at 11. Second, many critics voiced their concern that the NFSS made an unfair comparison between children raised by parents who happened to engage in some form of same-sex relationship and those raised by intact biological families. This is because almost all of the children in the former group were the offspring of a failed prior heterosexual union, which produced a significant measure of household instability and parental relationship fluctuation.

Even Regnerus recognized the limitations of the NFSS. In his expert report, Regnerus acknowledged that “any suboptimal outcomes may not be due to the sexual orientation of the parent” and that “[t]he exact source of group differences” are unknown. Defs.’ Ex. 28 at 5. Moreover, of the only two participants who reported living with their mother and her same-sex partner for their entire childhood, Regnerus found each of them to be “comparatively well-adjusted on most developmental and contemporary outcomes.” Id. at 11. Nonetheless, Regnerus testified that there is no conclusive evidence that “growing up in households wherein parents are in (or have been in) same-sex relationships” does not adversely affect child outcomes. Id. at 16.

The Court finds Regnerus’s testimony entirely unbelievable and not worthy of serious consideration. The evidence adduced at trial demonstrated that his 2012 “study” was hastily concocted at the behest of a third-party funder, which found it “essential that the necessary data be gathered to settle the question in the forum of public debate about what kinds of family arrangement are best for society” and which “was confident that the traditional understanding of marriage will be vindicated by this study.” See Pls.’ Motion in limine to Exclude Testimony of Mark Regnerus, Ex. 9. In the funder’s view, “the future of the institution of marriage at this moment is very uncertain” and “proper research” was needed to counter the many studies showing no differences in child outcomes. Id. The funder also stated that “this is a project where time is of the essence.” Id. Time was of the essence at the time of the funder’s comments in April 2011, and when Dr. Regnerus published the NFSS in 2012, because decisions such as Perry v. Schwarzenegger, 704 F. Supp. 2d 921 (N.D. Cal. 2010), and Windsor v. United States, 833 F. Supp. 2d 394 (S.D.N.Y. 2012), were threatening the funder’s concept of “the institution of marriage.”

While Regnerus maintained that the funding source did not affect his impartiality as a researcher, the Court finds this testimony unbelievable. The funder clearly wanted a certain result, and Regnerus obliged. Additionally, the NFSS is flawed on its face, as it purported to study “a large, random sample of American young adults (ages 18-39) who were raised in different types of family arrangements” (emphasis added), but in fact it did not study this at all, as Regnerus equated being raised by a same-sex couple with having ever lived with a parent who had a “romantic relationship with someone of the same sex” for any length of time. Whatever Regnerus may have found in this “study,” he certainly cannot purport to have undertaken a scholarly research effort to compare the outcomes of children raised by same-sex couples with those of children raised by heterosexual couples. It is no wonder that the NFSS has been widely and severely criticized by other scholars, and that Regnerus’s own sociology department at the University of Texas has distanced itself from the NFSS in particular and Dr. Regnerus’s views in general and reaffirmed the aforementioned APA position statement.

Translation: liar, liar, pants on fire.

Michigan Couples Rush County Clerks Offices For Marriage Licenses (Updated)

Jim Burroway

March 22nd, 2014

Couples line up in Ann Arbor for a shot at sixty marriage licenses to be issued today by the Washtenaw County Clerk’s Office. (Photo: Steve Friess)

 

Marsha Caspar, 52, and Glenna DeJong, 53.

News reports are crediting a Lansing couple, Glenna DeJong, 53, and Marsha Caspar, 52, as the first same-sex couple to marry in Michigan this morning after a Federal judge struck down Michigan’s Marriage Amendment (MMA) as unconstitutional late yesterday afternoon. They were married, after twenty-seven years together, shortly after the Ingham County Clerk’s office opened at 8:00 a.m. and issued them a license.

Ingham County was one of a handful of Michigan to open for special hours today specifically to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples. The other counties where clerks have opened today for special hours included Washtenaw (Ann Arbor), Muskegon (Muskegon, on Lake Michigan) and Oakland (Pontiac).

Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette has already filed a notice that he was appealing the decision to the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals, and he filed a separate request to the Sixth Circuit  to stay the lower court’s ruling. The Sixth Circuit has yet to act on the request.

Update: From the Detroit Free Press:

The U.S. 6th Circuit Court of Appeals will not act over the weekend on a stay requested by Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette in the gay marriage case, the court said in an order posted today.

The court has given the plaintiffs in the case, April DeBoer and Jayne Rowse, until Tuesday to file a response to Schuette’s request for a stay of U.S. District Judge Bernard Friedman’s Friday order declaring Michigan’s voter-approved ban on gay marriage unconstitutional.

More than two hundred couples were able to marry in the four counties which opened their offices today. This notice from the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals indicates that thousands more will be able to marry beginning on Monday when County Clerks Offices open statewide.

Update: The Sixth Circuit late Saturday issued a temporary stay until Wednesday. Again, from the Detroit Free Press:

The U.S. 6th Circuit Court of Appeals, after first signaling it would not intervene in Michigan’s gay marriage case until Tuesday, posted a new order late Saturday imposing a stay in the case until Wednesday. …

“To allow a more reasoned consideration of the motion to stay, it is ordered that the district court judgment is temporarily stayed until Wednesday,” the 6th Circuit said in an order late Saturday.

About 323 marriage licenses had been issued in four Michigan counties before the Sixth Circuit issued its stay.

Federal Judge Strikes Down Michigan Marriage Ban

Jim Burroway

March 21st, 2014

U.S. District Court Judge Bernard Friedman issued a ruling today striking down Michigan’s ban on same-sex marriage as a violation of the Equal Protection clause of the U.S. Constitution. This ruling marks the ninth federal court victory in a row for marriage equality since the U.S. Supreme Court’s Windsor decision last summer striking down portions of the Defense of Marriage Act.

The Reagan-appointee to the Federal bench heard testimony in the case two weeks ago which featured Mark Regnerus, the author of the widely discredited report alleging that children of same-sex parents have poorer outcomes, as the state’s star witness. His testimony didn’t hold up well under cross examination. What’s more, his own sociology department at the University of Texas issued a statement distancing themselves from Regnerus on the very morning he was set to testify. All that had Judge Freidman devoting two pages of his thirty-one page opinion to Regnerus’s testimony:

The Court finds Regnerus’s testimony entirely unbelievable and not worthy of serious consideration. The evidence adduced at trial demonstrated that his 2012 “study” was hastily concocted at the behest of a third-party funder, which found it “essential that the necessary data be gathered to settle the question in the forum of public debate about what kinds of family arrangement are best for society” and which “was confident that the traditional understanding of marriage will be vindicated by this study.” See Pls.’ Motion in limine to Exclude Testimony of Mark Regnerus, Ex. 9. In the funder’s view, “the future of the institution of marriage at this moment is very uncertain” and “proper research” was needed to counter the many studies showing no differences in child outcomes. Id. The funder also stated that “this is a project where time is of the essence.” Id. Time was of the essence at the time of the funder’s comments in April 2011, and when Dr. Regnerus published the NFSS in 2012, because decisions such as Perry v. Schwarzenegger, 704 F. Supp. 2d 921 (N.D. Cal. 2010), and Windsor v. United States, 833 F. Supp. 2d 394 (S.D.N.Y. 2012), were threatening the funder’s concept of “the institution of marriage.”

The primary funder was the the anti-gay Witherspoon Institute, which provided $695,000 for the study. The Bradley Institute kicked in another $90,000. Anti-gay activist Robert George sits on the board of directors of both organizations, as well as the editorial advisory  board of the LDS-owned Deseret News, which was the only paper to receive an advance copy of the study.  The study had been fast-tracked to publication by the conservative editor of the journal Social Science Research. Judge Friedman found the study’s funding source was at least partly behind the study’s appalling methodology:

While Regnerus maintained that the funding source did not affect his impartiality as a researcher, the Court finds this testimony unbelievable. The funder clearly wanted a certain result, and Regnerus obliged. Additionally, the NFSS is flawed on its face, as it purported to study “a large, random sample of American young adults (ages 18-39) who were raised in different types of family arrangements” (emphasis added), but in fact it did not study this at all, as Regnerus equated being raised by a same-sex couple with having ever lived with a parent who had a “romantic relationship with someone of the same sex” for any length of time. Whatever Regnerus may have found in this “study,” he certainly cannot purport to have undertaken a scholarly research effort to compare the outcomes of children raised by same-sex couples with those of children raised by heterosexual couples. It is no wonder that the NFSS has been widely and severely criticized by other scholars, and that Regnerus’s own sociology department at the University of Texas has distanced itself from the NFSS in particular and Dr. Regnerus’s views in general and reaffirmed the aforementioned APA position statement.

Regernus’s testimony was part of a larger argument that the state of Michigan tried to make in support of the ban on same-sex marriage. Attorneys for the state based much of their case on what they called the “optimal environment” for raising children. Judge Friedman found that position “absurd”:

[T]he state defendants’ position suffers from a glaring inconsistency. Even assuming that children raised by same-sex couples fare worse than children raised by heterosexual married couples, the state defendants fail to explain why Michigan law does not similarly exclude certain classes of heterosexual couples from marrying whose children persistently have had “sub-optimal” developmental outcomes. According to Rosenfeld’s study, children raised by suburban residents academically outperformed those children raised by rural and urban residents. Likewise, “middle class and poor families are ‘sub-optimal’ compared to well-off families, and couples with less formal education are “sub-optimal” compared to couples with more formal education.” Pls.’ Ex. 31 at 5. A child’s racial background is another predictive indicator of future success, as the study showed that “the probability of making good progress through school is greater in the U.S. for children of Asian descent than for children of all other racial groups.” Id. Taking the state defendants’ position to its logical conclusion, the empirical evidence at hand should require that only rich, educated, suburban-dwelling, married Asians may marry, to the exclusion of all other heterosexual couples. Obviously the state has not adopted this policy and with good reason. The absurdity of such a requirement is self-evident. Optimal academic outcomes for children cannot logically dictate which groups may marry.

The state also argued that any changes to the institution of marriage should “proceed with caution” before opening it up to same-sex couples. Judge Friedman found that argument “not persuasive”:

But the calculus is fundamentally altered when constitutional rights are implicated because “any deprivation of constitutional rights calls for prompt rectification.” Watson v. Memphis, 373 U.S. 526, 532-533 (1963). “The basic guarantees of our Constitution are warrants for the here and now and, unless there is an overwhelmingly compelling reason, they are to be promptly fulfilled.” Id. The state may not shield itself with the “wait-and-see” approach and sit idly while social science research takes its plodding and deliberative course. Were the Court to accept this position, “it would turn the rational basis analysis into a toothless and perfunctory review” because “the state can plead an interest in proceeding with caution in almost any setting.” Kitchen v. Herbert, No. 13-217, 2013 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 179331, at *77 (D. Utah Dec. 20, 2013).  Rather, the state must have some rationale beyond merely asserting that there is no conclusive evidence to decide an issue one way or another. See Perry, 704 F. Supp. 2d at 972 (quoting Romer for the proposition that “[e]ven under the most deferential standard of review . . . the court must ‘insist on knowing the relation between the classification adopted and the object to be attained.’”). Since the “wait-and-see” approach fails to meet this most basic threshold it cannot pass the rational basis test.

The state also argued that it had a legitimate interest in upholding “tradition and morality”:

The difficulty with this justification is two-fold. First, the Supreme Court has held that tradition alone does not satisfy rational basis review. See Heller v. Doe, 509 U.S. 312, 326 (1993) (stating that the “[a]ncient lineage of a legal concept does not give it immunity from attack for lacking a rational basis.”). Second, traditional notions of marriage are often enmeshed with the moral disapproval of redefining marriage to encompass same-sex relationships. On this point, many federal courts have noted that moral disapproval is not a sufficient rationale for upholding a provision of law on equal protection grounds. See Massachusetts v. U.S. Dept. of Health and Human Servs., 682 F.3d 1, 15 (1st Cir. 2012) (invalidating section 3 of the Defense of Marriage Act because the  statute expressed a moral disapproval of homosexuality)…

And finally, in the throw-all-the-spaghetti-against-the-wall-to-see-what-sticks strategy of the state’s attorneys, they argued that marriage was solely a state question, and they even tried to cite Windsor to support that argument:

The state defendants gloss over one important caveat. While the justices recognized the state’s expansive power in the realm of domestic relations, they also noted that this power has its limits. Writing for the majority, Justice Kennedy stated that domestic relations “laws defining and regulating marriage, of course, must respect the constitutional rights of persons . . . but, subject to those guarantees, regulation of domestic relations is an area that has long been regarded as a virtually exclusive province of the states,” id. (citing Loving) (internal quotations omitted), and that “[t]he states’ interest in defining and regulating the marital relation [is] subject to constitutional guarantees . . .” Id. at 2692. These statements are not merely surplusage, and as one district astutely remarked, “[a] citation to Loving is a disclaimer of enormous proportion.” Bishop, 2014 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 4374, at *66.

…Taken together, both the Windsor and Loving decisions stand for the proposition that, without some overriding legitimate interest, the state cannot use its domestic relations authority to legislate families out of existence. Having failed to establish such an interest in the context of same-sex marriage, the MMA cannot stand.

Because Judge Friedman did not issue a temporary stay against his ruling, there had been reports now that an unknown number of clerk offices in Michigan are re-opening to begin issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples. So far, it appears that the ruling came down after most of the county clerk offices had closed. Unless some of them open for special hours this weekend, the earliest that anyone will be able to marry will be Monday morning.

Meanwhile, Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette has already filed a notice that he was appealing the decision to the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals. In a separate filing, he asked the Sixth Circuit  to stay the lower court’s ruling.

 

Michigan Gay Marriage Ban Trial Ends With A Bang

Jim Burroway

March 7th, 2014

So this happened:

Michigan’s gay marriage trial ended on an explosive note today, with the state’s final witness saying he believes unrepentant homosexuals are going to hell.

His views emerged following a question from plaintiffs attorney Ken Mogill, who is fighting to overturn Michigan’s ban on gay marriage.

“Is it accurate that you believe the consequence of engaging in homosexual acts is a separation from God and eternal damnation?” Mogill asked the state’s expert, then added, “in other words, they’re going to hell?”

“Without repentance, yes,” answered the expert, Canadian economist Douglas Allen, the last witness to testify on behalf of the state in a trial that could make Michigan the 18th state to legalize gay marriage.

Things didn’t go well at all for the State of Michigan, which is defending the ban in Federal Court. The State’s first witness, a philosopher from Princeton, was disqualified as an expert witness. That testimony was supposed to tee-up Mark Regnerus, the author of the widely discredited report alleging that children of same-sex parents have poorer outcomes, to take the stand for the first time since the report’s publication. But just before Regnerus took the stand, his colleagues at the Department of Sociology at the University of Texas issued a statement distancing themselves from his testimony:

Like all faculty, Dr. Regnerus has the right to pursue his areas of research and express his point of view.  However, Dr. Regnerus’ opinions are his own. They do not reflect the views of the Sociology Department of The University of Texas at Austin.  Nor do they reflect the views of the American Sociological Association, which takes the position that the conclusions he draws from his study of gay parenting are fundamentally flawed on conceptual and methodological grounds and that findings from Dr. Regnerus’ work have been cited inappropriately in efforts to diminish the civil rights and legitimacy of LBGTQ partners and their families.  We encourage society as a whole to evaluate his claims.

That set the stage for Regnerus’s testimony:

Critics said Regnerus’ 248-person study included just two who had been raised from birth to adulthood by gay couples. When asked Monday how those two fared, Regnerus replied, “Pretty good.”

On Tuesday, (ACLU attorney Leslie) Cooper asked Regnerus how big a study would need to be to satisfy his curiosity about child welfare and how much it would cost. He said it would cost tens of millions of dollars over several years. Cooper asked whether he believed such funding could be approved, and Regnerus said it was unlikely.

“So,” Cooper asked, “if a nationally representative, large-scale longitudinal study is never done because it’s too expensive, is it your opinion that same-sex people should never be allowed to marry?”

Refusing to answer that question, Regnerus deflected into mumbo-jumbo about “common expectations about marriage.” He was also asked about other types of families: poor families, less educated families, remarried families, where statistics also show poorer outcomes in children. Should they be barred from marrying for the same reasons?

Regnerus said no regarding the poor and less educated, but said he didn’t have an opinion about heterosexual remarriage.

“You don’t have an opinion whether prior divorced people should be allowed to get married?” Cooper asked.

“It exists,” he said. “I don’t think much about that … I think it would be nice if (couples) can work it out.”

Regnerus also insisted he hadn’t formed an opinion on whether it is better for a child in foster care to remain in a foster home or be adopted by a same-sex couple.

Throughout the proceedings, Regnerus stuck to his insistence that biological, intact families are best and that anything else, including adoption, is “a concession.”

It was an excruciating grilling, which the free-lance reporter, Steve Friess, live-tweeted on Monday and Tuesday:

Caught Regnerus leaving courtroom. Seemed rattled. Asked how he felt, he said, "Relieved." Were you nervous? "No comment." Walked away.

Friess is back live-tweeting closing arguments today, this time for Buzzfeed.

Regnerus Study Featured In Russian Anti-Gay Propaganda

Jim Burroway

September 20th, 2013

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CGCkhcwGres&feature=player_embedded

A new anti-gay propaganda video is making the rounds in Russia, which includes these claims:

But what to the experts say? Mark Regnerus, professor at Texas University, began his study in 2010. His findings were that one fourth of children being raised by same-sex parents showed a tendency toward suicide and had contracted venereal diseases and sixty percent of children struggle with their sexual identity. Moreover, one in three children being raised by same-sex couples were needed by their adopted parents for sex. So this is why, gays especially, are happy for children to be adopted by gays. They need children to satisfy their sexual desire.

Regnerus’s discredited study appears to have gone viral in Russia. When pressed, Regnerus will sometimes admits that his study cannot support the claims that he makes that gay parenting results in worse outcomes in children — only two kids in his study were actually raised by gay parents for their entire childhoods —  but he then continued to make those claims anyway. But Regnerus now expresses his dismay at discovering that his study is being misrepresented in Russia. This is odd. After he contorted his data and applied logical fallacies in the rushed service of bought and paid-for anti-gay politics in America, he now complains that others are using it to further a similar agenda.

He may, as well, complain that this particular video is a gross misrepresentation of what his study actually says — and that’s even after his own gross misrepresentation of what the data says that went into his study. And he’d be correct, but frankly, he has no room to complain. The Russians are only doing to his study what he did to his data set. The best he can muster is a complaint about the relative degree misrepresentation, and that won’t get him very far. He may as well get used to sharing his bed with Russians propagandists for a very long time to come.

Discredited researcher claims that equality will “change” marriage

Timothy Kincaid

June 10th, 2013

Mark Regnerus first came to attention when he published what was described as a study of children of same sex couples based on a national probability sampled population. After review and some careful sleuthing it was discovered that Regnerus’ study was anything but scientific. It was paid for by an advocacy group, released for political impact, “peer reviewed” by people who helped structure the study, and constructed to give a pre-determined outcome.

It claimed to report on a group of people (same-sex couples raising children) based on what turned out to be a sample of three children. It was pretty much the antithesis of research.

But just in case there was any question as to whether Regnerus was motivated by anti-gay political advocacy goals, he has cleared that up by writing an article for the Witherspoon Institute titled “Yes, Marriage Will Change–and Here’s How“.

I won’t bother quoting it, but if you read it you’ll quickly see his intent. He delights that old page out of the anti-gay playbook: quote a gay person as though any gay speaks for all gays. Find any position pondered by a theorist and breathlessly say, “See! See! And it was one of The Gays who said it so don’t blame me.”

Its mostly wild stereotypes about what men are like, what women are like, and how allowing The Gays to marry will lead to open heterosexual marriages. And he knows this because heterosexuals engage in anal sex.

Those who support anti-gay positions will lap it up. But anyone else will likely shrug and say, “This guy doesn’t know much about men, women, or marriage, does he?”

Auditor of “Gay Parenting” Study Warns of Christian Right’s Corruption of Social Science

Jim Burroway

May 29th, 2013

Last June, the journal Social Science Research published a controversial study by Mark Regnerus which claimed that children of gay and lesbian parents fared worse than children from other family configurations. BTB was the first to publish a review which demonstrated that the study was seriously flawed and the data was intentionally manipulated in order to draw conclusions that the data itself simply could not support. While Regnerus acknowledged a few of the studies flaws, he defended it on the whole and quickly became something of a spokesperson for anti-gay activists who were battling marriage equality in Federal court.

The massive controversy over the study’s flaws and its questionable rush to publication led Social Science Research editor Kames D. Wright to assign a member of the journal’s editorial board, Dr. Darren E. Sherkat of Southern Illinois University, to review how the paper and how its publication was handled. In that audit, Sherkat found problems with the study’s conclusions, its funding sources (nearly $700,000 from the Witherspoon Institute), conflicts of interests with the study’s reviewers, and the auspicious timing of the study’s publication, just ahead of the 2012 elections when marriage equality ballot initiatives were to be voted on in three states and a marriage ban in a fourth. Additional documents release last March revealed that Witherspoon Institute was more heavily involved with the contorted data analysis which led to the study’s false conclusions. Those documents also revealed that Witherspoon Institute president Luis Tellez exerted pressure get the study published before the marriage cases reached the Supreme Court.

Dr. Darren Sherkat

This morning, the Southern Poverty Law Center’s Intelligence Report published an interview with Dr. Sherkat, who explained further what he found when he examined how the journal handled the Regnerus paper. Sherkat described the pressures that editors face in filling their journals’ pages with content, and the slipshod way that many reviewers approach their work. Those factors are just a few which contribute to a general lack of rigor in social science journals, says Sherkat, and he warns that “conservative Christian scholars” are taking advantage of that opening:

Peer review is not perfect. The majority of people don’t do a bad job out of any kind of malicious intent. Having said that, Mark Regnerus is not alone. There are a large number of conservative Christian scholars in sociology, in political science, in family studies, and it’s surprising how many now are rising up into the top ranks. I’ve watched Mark throughout his career rise up through those structures that help to elevate conservative idea creators who are committed to the ideology of the Christian right and who are bright enough and hard-working enough to establish themselves in secular education. Regnerus has contemporaries who came up with him who today are also at prominent universities throughout the country.

Sherkat describes Regnerus’s method for identifying “gay and lesbian parents” as “simply a farce.” He also says that Regnerus “has been disgraced. All of the prominent people in the field know what he did and why he did it. And most of them know that he knew better.” But Sherkat worries that the funding of studies like Regnerus’s by conservative think tanks is creating an unlevel playing field:

One thing that’s disturbing to me about the Regnerus study is that Regnerus received a large amount of money from these foundations and this creates a very different scholarly and intellectual atmosphere. It creates a playing field that’s not level. Someone like Regnerus is now able to go out and buy his own data, if we’re to accept data of this quality.

Even if we were to say it’s high quality data, he is able to get a million dollars’ worth of influence — he was able to generate that kind of funding from these conservative foundations in a way that other intellectuals are not able to do. All of the traditional sources of social scientific funding have dried up over the last 20 years and there’s nowhere to go to get money, but these guys have it. There are talks in Congress about cutting the entire social science budget at the National Science Foundation. That is chilling, because then we’ll be completely reliant on people like Mark Regnerus and Brad Wilcox [of the University of Virginia] and Christian Smith [of Notre Dame University] and people like that for our information about potentially crucial or controversial issues.

Nation’s Largest Pediatrics Organization Supports Same-Sex Marriage, Criticizes Regnerus Study

Jim Burroway

March 21st, 2013

The American Academy of Pediatrics issued a policy statement today putting the nation’s largest professional organization of pediatricians firmly in support of same-sex marriage.

In a policy statement issued today, the AAP says (PDF: 684KB/6 pages):

All children need support and nurturing from stable, healthy, and wellfunctioning adults to become resilient and effective adults. On the basis of a review of extensive scientific literature, the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) affirms that “children’s well-being is affected much more by their relationships with their parents, their parents’ sense of competence and security, and the presence of social and economic support for the family than by the gender or the sexual orientation of their parents.”

…Public policy related to marriage and family is largely a state function. Consequently, the laws across the country that regulate marriage, adoption, and foster parenting by gay men and lesbians are an inconsistent patchwork. Even civil marriage in a state that permits it does not ensure access to federal benefits. The federal Defense of Marriage Act (1996; Pub. L. No. 104-199) denies members of married samegender households access and benefits equivalent to those available to households headed by married parents of different genders, such as (1) Social Security and related programs, (2) housing and food stamps, (3) federal civilian and military service benefits, (4) employment benefits, (5) immigration and nationality status, (6) remedies and protections for crimes and family violence, and (7) certain loans and financial guarantees. For this reason, the AAP has joined with other national organizations in support of the position that the Defense of Marriage Act is unconstitutional.

A core mission of the AAP is to support the best interests of all children, regardless of their home or family structure, on the basis of the common principles of justice. If a child has 2 living and capable parents who choose to create a permanent bond by way of civil marriage, it is in the best interests of their child(ren) that legal and social institutions allow and support them to do so. If 2 parents are not available to the child, adoption or foster parenting remain acceptable options to provide a loving home for a child and should be available without regard to the sexual orientation of the parent(s).

Recommendations:
The AAP works to ensure that public policies help all parents, regardless of sexual orientation and other characteristics, to build and maintain strong, stable, and healthy families that are able to meet the needs of their children. In particular, the AAP supports:

1. Marriage equality for all capable and consenting couples, including those who are of the same gender, as a means of guaranteeing all federal and state rights and benefits, and long-term security for their children.

2. Adoption by single parents, coparents adopting together, or a second parent when 1 parent is already a legal parent by birth or adoption, without regard to the sexual orientation of the adoptive parent(s).

The policy statement was accompanied by a tachnical report by Drs. Ellen C. Perrin, Benjamin S. Siegel, and the Committee on Psychosocial Aspects of Child and Family Health. Titled “Promoting the Well-Being of Children Whose Parents are Gay or Lesbian” (PDF: 736KB/12 pages), the report lists a whole range of legal disparities created by various state laws addressing the rights and responsibilities of parenthood, as well as legal disparities created by federal laws and regulations. The technical report also lists several disparities which directly imact the child’s health, including barriers which may prohibit one parent from making medical decisions for their children in emergency situations or accompanying their children in the hospital. Othe barriers stand in the way of a working parent obtaining employer-provided health insurance for his or her children.

The technical report also examines some thirty years of research on gay and lesbian parenting, including last year’s deeply flawed study by Mark Regnerus claiming to demonstrate negative outcomes for children of same-sex parents:

A recent publication was based on a large national sample of US adults who were asked whether their parents had ever had a relationship with a person of the same gender while they were growing up and whether they had ever lived with that parent while the parent was involved in such a relationship. Parents who were said to have had a same-gender relationship were categorized as lesbian or gay parents, although their sexual orientation was not directly determined. In comparison with those who did not report that a parent had had a same-gender relationship, a number of adverse outcomes were identified, including being on public assistance, being unemployed, and having poorer educational attainment. Extensive critique of this study has pointed out that:

  • It is well known that family instability, and in particular divorce, is a risk factor for children, and almost all of the respondents whose parent had had a same-gender relationship had also experienced the divorce of their parents.
  • These data reflect an era when stigmatization and discrimination toward same-gender couples and their children were strong and were likely to have contributed to less-than-optimal child-rearing environments.
  • Respondents were certainly not children “raised by” lesbian or gay parents, because only half were living with these parents, and the sexual orientation of the parents was not determined.
  • The great variability in the form and characteristics of both same-gender and heterosexual relationships, combined with the small number of those relationships, even in a large data set like this one, makes it impossible to sort out true evidence of causality.

The Regnerus Study, which was mostly paid for by some $700,000 in grants from the anti-gay Witherspoon Institute, was released last year to great fanfare in the conservative press. BTB was the first to debunk the study on the same morning in which it was released to the public.

The technical report went on to review some thirty years’ worth of studies, and concluded:

On the basis of this comprehensive review of the literature regarding the development and adjustment of children whose parents are the same gender, as well as the existing evidence for the legal, social, and health benefits of marriage to children, the AAP concludes that it is in the best interests of children that they be able to partake in the security of permanent nurturing and care that comes with the civil marriage of their parents, without regard to their parents’ gender or sexual orientation.

The policy statement and technical report will appear in the April 2013 issue of the AAP’s journal Pediatrics.

Internal Documents Confirm Regnerus Study’s Political Origins, Conflicts of Interest

Jim Burroway

March 11th, 2013

Last summer’s study in the previously obscure journal Social Science Research by Mark Regnerus claiming to demonstrate that children of gay and lesbian parents fare much worse than children of heterosexual parents raised quite a number of eyebrows, beginning with the bizarre apples-to-elephants comparison he had to contort his data into performing in order to attempt such a claim. While the logical fallacy was, appropriately, the main focus of criticisms of his so-called study, it was noted that the expensive study was paid for largely by $700,000 in grants from the staunchly anti-gay Witherspoon Institute, giving Regnerus a level of funding that few researchers — and, let’s say it, none with his previously unknown stature — would even dare to dream of. This guy was entrusted with a hell of a lot of money, and if it’s not plainly obviously by now, someone managed to grease the skids at the middling-ranked Social Science Research to give the study preferential treatment so that it could be fast tracked to publication. The paper itself was withheld for as long as possible from those whom might give it a critical eye in an attempt to make sure that the first press reports were favorable.

Earlier this month, the University of Texas, Regmerus’s employer, began releasing documents and emails related to the study in response to a Freedom of Information Act request from The American Independent. At least some of those documents are now posted online. The American Independent’s Sofia Resnick went through those documents and found that the Witherspoon Institute, which provided three-quarters of the study’s overall funding, communicated its expectations of the study’s results ahead of time, and even provided an analyst to help manipulate the data to generate the foregone conclusion:

Records show that an academic consultant hired by UT to conduct data analysis for the project was a longtime fellow of the Witherspoon Institute, which shelled out about $700,000 for the research. Documentation about University of Virginia associate sociology professor W. Bradford Wilcox’s dual roles contradict Regnerus’ assertions that the think tank wasn’t involved with how the study was designed or carried out.

The records also confirm what I noticed last June: the “expediency” with which the study was conducted and published. And what what the driving force for that “expediency”? Why, the Supreme Court, of course:

In the early stages of the New Family Structures Study – before data was collected and long before any results were known – the Witherspoon Institute’s president, Luis Tellez, made it clear to Regnerus that expediency was paramount.

“Naturally we would like to move along as expeditiously as possible but experience suggests we ought not to get hung up with deadlines, do what is right and best, move on it, don’t dilly dolly, etc.,” Tellez wrote in a Sept. 22, 2010 email. “It would be great to have this before major decisions of the Supreme Court but that is secondary to the need to do this and do it well. I would like you to take ownership and think of how would you want it done, rather than someone like me dictating parameters but of course, here to help.”

…“As you know, the future of the institution of marriage at this moment is very uncertain,” Tellez wrote in the letter, dated April 5, 2011. “It is essential that the necessary data be gathered to settle the question in the forum of public debate about what kinds of family arrangement are best for society. That is what the NFSS is designed to do. Our first goal is to seek the truth, whatever that may turn out to be. Nevertheless, we are confident that the traditional understanding of marriage will be vindicated by this study as long as it is done honestly and well.”

The study’s purpose, as you can see, wasn’t to advance science, but to influence the Supreme Court. Also, those last two sentences can be seen as a classic cover-my-ass statement from Witherspoon, because, of course, we know that the study was certainly not done “honestly and well.” In fact, as I noticed when the study first came out, “If one wanted to intentionally create Lesbian Mothers and Gay Fathers groups which were least likely to look like an intact biological family, I can’t imagine a better way to do so than to take the steps Regnerus has taken here.” And if there is any question about whether Witherspoon was communicating its expectations about the study’s outcomes before it was even conducted, consider this fundraising plea from Witherspoon to the Bradley Foundation, which ended up kicking in $200,000 for the study before it was even launched:

“The [University of Texas at Austin’s Population Research] Center has requested that The Witherspoon Institute work with it in raising the necessary funds, and given the importance of the project, the Institute has committed to doing so, with Dr. Mark Regnerus’ assistance,” Tellez wrote, “We are quite sure that if we do not intervene, the project will not be funded in a timely fashion. And this is a project where time is of the essence.”

Tellez went on to explain that the crux of the New Family Structures Study – whether kids raised by gay parents fare as well as those raised by straight parents – “is the question that must now be answered – in a scientifically serious way – by those who are in favor of traditional marriage.”

On June 15 of last year, I noticed that the Regnerus paper was rushed to print in an unusually expedited manner. In fact, the paper itself, it turns out, was submitted before the study was even completed. And as I noted before, the study’s data was withheld from those who might give the report a critical eye:

Michael Rosenfeld, a social demographer who teaches at Stanford University, said the journal had asked him to write a commentary of the paper but gave him a two-week deadline – a time frame Rosenfeld said is unusually short in the academic world. Rosenfeld told The American Independent that he still doesn’t know why Regnerus’ paper was seemingly rushed.

“One of the things about academic publishing is that it’s not in a hurry,” Rosenfeld said. “It’s more important to get it right than to rush it into print. So, I was sort of perplexed as to what the hurry was about.”

Rosenfeld said he agreed to review the paper on the condition that he could see the data. But Regnerus’ team refused.

“I’m a data-analysis person,” Rosenfeld said. “So, for me I wasn’t going to have anything to say about Regnerus’ paper until I could actually see the data and figure out for myself whether what he had done was reasonable or not. And I didn’t want to have a debate with him about the data when he could see the data and I couldn’t. That didn’t seem like it was going to go very far.”

Regnerus originally invited Rosenfeld to participate in the study, but Rosenfeld declined, citing “he unusual way the project is funded.” The journal’s editor, James D. Wright, continues to deny that Regnerus’s paper received special treatment, despite an independent audit criticizing the journal for overlooking serious flaws and Wright’s own admission that he was enticed, at least partly, by the opportunity to raise his journal’s relatively low Impact Factor.

Resnick’s full report is required reading and provides essential information describing how the study came into being and the alarm bells it raised among those who came to understand its origins long before it was published.

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):

A) THE REGNERUS STUDY DOES NOT SUPPORT CONCLUSIONS REGARDING THE IMPACT OF BEING RAISED BY SAME-SEX PARENTS

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.

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