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Posts for April, 2014

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

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.

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

Timothy Kincaid

November 12th, 2012

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

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

Hogwash.

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

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

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

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

Wait, what’s that description again?

78 kids growing up in activist households

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

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

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

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

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

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

Debunking the Regnerus Study

Jim Burroway

October 1st, 2012
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Marriage is on the ballot in four states this year. Voters in Maine, Maryland, and Washington will decide whether same-sex couples will be allowed to marry, while Minnesota voters will determine whether to write discrimination into their state’s constitution. The National Organization for Marriage (NOM), the Witherspoon Institute, and many, many other organizations are mobilizing their resources to push their anti-gay arguments.  Professor John Corvino is intimately familiar with those arguments, having just published a book with NOM’s co-founder Maggie Gallagher titled Debating Same-Sex Marriage, the only book ever endorsed both by Rick Santorum and Dan Savage. Corvino has also posted a valuable series of videos taking apart those arguements, one by one. You can see the entire series here.

BTB was the first to debunk Regnerus’s study. Our review came out just before news of the study broke in the Deseret News. Rob Tisinai’s reaction can be found herehere, and here; Timothy Kincaid’s here. Regnerus’s response to a BTB reader can be found here. You can follow everything we’ve written about the study by following this tag.

Journal Audit Finds Severe Flaws In Regnerus “Gay Parenting” Study

Jim Burroway

July 27th, 2012

The Chronicle of Higher Education has obtained a copy of a highly critical audit showing that Mark Regnerus’s widely discussed paper on gay and lesbian parenting underwent a flawed peer-reviewed process which failed to find significant methodological problems and conflicts of interest. BTB was the first to review many of those methodological problems here on the day the study first appeared in the journal Social Science Research. According to The Chronicle:

Like Regnerus, the editor of Social Science Research, James D. Wright, has been at the receiving end of an outpouring of anger over the paper. At the suggestion of another scholar, Wright, a professor of sociology at the University of Central Florida, assigned a member of the journal’s editorial board—Darren E. Sherkat, a professor of sociology at Southern Illinois University at Carbondale—to examine how the paper was handled.

Sherkat was given access to all the reviews and correspondence connected with the paper, and was told the identities of the reviewers. According to Sherkat, Regnerus’s paper should never have been published. His assessment of it, in an interview, was concise: “It’s bullshit,” he said.

The audit criticized the paper’s identification of “lesbian mothers” and “gay fathers,” which was at the heart of our criticism of the report when the paper first appeared. Sherkat found the those labels for the categories of families that Regnerus created “extremely misleading.” He added: “Reviewers uniformly downplayed or ignored the fact that the study did not examine children of identifiably gay and lesbian parents, and none of the reviewers noticed that the marketing-research data were inappropriate for a top-tier social-scientific journal.” Sherkat found that that fact alone should have “disqualified it immediately” from publication.

The audit also found conflicts of interests among the reviewers and states that “scholars who should have known better failed to recuse themselves from the review process,” according to The Chronicle. Three of the six reviewers were on record as opposing same-sex marriage and were “not without some connection to Regnerus.” Sherkat did not however find that the paper had been inappropriately expedited as I questioned. But Sherkat did question the paper’s funding — $785,000 from the conservative Whiterspoon Institute and Bradly Foundation — and the study’s timing auspicious timing ahead of the 2012 elections, were serious concerns.

“There should be reflection about a conservative scholar garnering a very large grant from exceptionally conservative foundations,” he writes in the audit, “to make incendiary arguments about the worthiness of LGBT parents—and putting this out in time to politicize it before the 2012 United States presidential election.”

Journals are judged and scored according to what’s known as an “Impact Factor” by Journal Citation Reports. The Impact Factor identifies the number of times articles are cited by other journals over a period of time. Higher Impact Factors are earned when other authors more frequently cite journal articles in their published papers, and the higher the Impact Factor, the greater the journal’s prestige. Social Science Research’s Five-Year Impact Factor is 1.994, which is considered low for social science research journals. Wright admitted to Sherkat that he believed the Regnerus paper would generate a high level of discussion and possibly elevate the journal’s Impact Factor, and admits that “perhaps this prospect caused me to be inattentive to things I should have kept a keener eye on.”

Wright told The Chronicle that he has experienced “sleepless nights” and angry emails, both from colleagues and strangers. Wright told The Chronnicle that he supports civil rights for gays and lesbians, and found accusations that he was fostering an anti-gay climate “hurtful and preposterous.” (You can read one email exchange between Wright and a BTB reader here.)

Editor James Wright provided a copy of the audit to The Chronicle, and it will appear in the November edition of Social Science Research. The September issue of the bi-monthly journal has already been issued and posted online.

Tools of the Trade

Jim Burroway

June 21st, 2012

Many, many years ago, a co-worker decided to take up woodworking as a hobby. He moved his cars out of his suburban garage — there would no longer be any room for them there — and purchased some of the finest sets of tools and machinery available: band saw, jig saw, router, drill press, and a few others I couldn’t tell you the names of because I’m not a woodworker. He went top of the line, too (or so he assured me, and I believe him), making sure he had the best bells and whistles. That was just his machinery. His array of hand tools was equally impressive lined up on his shiny new cabinets where, in each drawer, he laid a piece of foam with cut-outs in the shape of his tools. This way, there would be a place for every tool and a tool in every place. It was, all in all, a weekend warrior’s dream.

And then he built his book cases and media center. They weren’t awful by any means, but they weren’t spectacular either. I had a hard time seeing how they were much better than what I could have made with my far humbler collection of mismatched and somewhat rusty tools laying around the house. Assuming I could find them.

My co-worker’s dazzling workshop and my mess of a garage come to mind as I read some Mark Regnerus’s postings defending — no, not defending, but bragging about — his purported study on gay and lesbian parenting I reviewed last week. I say purported because with most of the adult children studied spending much less than three years with their gay or lesbian parent, it seems to me to be a study that is not about gay parenting but about children of divorce, separation, parental infidelity, and a host of other sources of instability. Gay parents, it turns out, are barely in the picture at all.

Regnerus blithely ignores this criticism. Instead, he distinguishes his study by the shiny $785,000 worth of tools that he assembled to produce it. It’s often the first point he mentions when he talks about it, like in his defense posted on the Baptist-affiliated Baylor University web site:

By contrast, Regnerus relies on a large, random, and representative sample of more than 200 children raised by parents who have had same-sex relationships, comparing them to a random sample of more than 2,000 children raised in heterosexual families, to reach his conclusions. This is why sociology professor Paul Amato, chair of the Family section of the American Sociological Association and president of the National Council on Family Relations, wrote that the Regnerus study was “better situated than virtually all previous studies to detect differences between these [different family] groups in the population.”

National random samples are inordinately expensive. It is why they are so rare in social science research. It’s every social scientist’s wet dream to be able to assemble a garage like Regnerus’s, but for almost every one of them such a tool set is way out of their reach. So having a tool as shiny and impressive as a nationally random sample is a really big deal. I’d say that it would probably very difficult for most people to resist showing it off.

But what I see happening is that Regnerus wants us to be dazzled by his tools — and they are truly dazzling — and not look too closely at the book case he built with them. And if that book case looks a little off kilter, maybe its because he used his tools incorrectly. If you use a drill press when you really needed a router, you’re going get results that fall short of what you promised. If you ask adults between 18 and 39 if either of their parents ever had a same-sex relationship and leave it up to the responder to ponder whether a short tryst counts, then you are going to get a sample that doesn’t resemble anything like the kind of relationship that is comparable to any kind of marriage, gay or straight.

And as his study has little to say about anything close to resembling marriage, it also says almost nothing about parenting. In his study, only 57% said they had lived with their mother and her partner for at least four months before the age of 18, and only 23% reported living with their father and his partner for the same length of time. Only 23% of children of so-called “Lesbian Mothers” and 2% of children of so-called “gay fathers” — both loosely defined — reported living with their parents and their parents’ same-sex partners for three years or more. If this is any kind of a study about gay parenting, it is even more so a study about the fifteen-plus years these kids spent outside of that so-called relationship.

And so after constructed a sample that was guaranteed to look nothing like a stable family environment, and then compared it to a sample that was specifically constructed to be a stable as possible, he found differences. That happens when you compare apples to orangutangs. And what else would you expect? When you build an unlevel shelf, you shouldn’t be surprised to see all of the results sliding off to one end. Sure, he may have started with a nationally representative sample, but that doesn’t give him license to move populations around within his samples with the purpose of achieving his aims, or to make claims about what his sample represents when his sample wasn’t constructed to represent what he claims.

And these issues point to a much bigger problem with Regnerus’s study. He wanted to examine the impact of gay parenting on children, but his tools, as impressive and expensive as they were, turned out to be the wrong tools for the job. As powerful as they otherwise would have been, they lacked the critical features that he needed to do the job correctly. And so lacking those important features, he does what a lot of weekend hobbyists in a hurry end up doing: he kludges it and hopes nobody notices. Except they have, and those kludges have been the crux of the criticisms against his study.

His response so far has boiled down to this: don’t pay any attention to how he used his tools. Just look at how shiny and expensive they are. But as every craftsman will tell you, it’s not the tools that make the better product, but the care of the craftsman who uses them wisely.

Regnerus’ Defenders Miss the Point

Rob Tisinai

June 20th, 2012

A group of professors has issued a statement responding to critics of the recent study by Mark Regnerus. Unfortunately, they miss the point entirely. To recap, the criticism is that:

  • Regnerus claims his study improves on previous research on same-sex parenting.
  • Regnerus has been using his study to make claims in the conservative media about same-sex parenting.
  • However, rather than surveying people who were raised by same-sex parents, Regnerus studied people who say one of their parents had a same-sex relationship, whether they were raised by those same-sex partners or not.
  • Regnerus has collected a sample of kids who spent more than three years being raised by actual same-sex parents, but it is so small that it represents no improvement on previous studies, and by Regnerus’ own statement is too small to offer statistically significant conclusions.

That’s egregious. Regenus’ defenders offer three points in response. Or do they? Their introduction does not bode well:

It is perhaps in part for that reason that the new study on same-sex parenting by University of Texas sociology professor Mark Regnerus, which finds that young-adult children of parents who have had same-sex relationships are more likely to suffer from a range of emotional and social problems…

Immediately we find his defenders confusing “same-sex parenting” with “children of parents who have had same-sex relationships.” That doesn’t help their case.

The first of their three points is that prior research on same-sex parenting is flawed. Perhaps it is. But I don’t need to explore that to see this offers Regnerus no defense against charges of misrepresentation, and wouldn’t do so even if  he didn’t repeat the flaws he calls out in those studies (which he does).

Their second point is that Regnerus had trouble finding adults who had been raised by same-sex parents, and was forced to base his study on less stable family structures:

Thus, Regnerus should not be faulted for drawing a random, representative sample of young-adult children of parents who have had same-sex romantic relationships and also happened to have experienced high levels of family instability growing up.

But we’re not faulting him for that. To be clear: We’re faulting him for presenting his work as a (better!) study on same-sex parenting, and for making claims to the media about same parenting, even as he admits he was not able to study same-sex parenting!

His defenders’ first point was irrelevant. This one is actually damning.

Their third and final point is that a new study in a different journal seems to back up Regnerus’ conclusions. I haven’t looked at it yet, but even this, even if true, is irrelevant to the charge that Regnerus’ study does not examine what it claims to examine, and that his statements to the media are unsupported by his work.

The authors conclude by hoping that

[F]uture journalistic coverage of such studies, and this contentious topic, will be more civil, thorough, and thoughtful than has been the coverage of the new study by Professor Mark Regnerus.

I can only hope that future studies — and their defenders — will be more honest, thorough, and thoughtful than this work by Regnerus and those who claim to answer his critics.

Thanks to Box Turtle Bulletin reader Straight Grandmother for directing us to this statement.

Where Have All the Straight People Gone?

Rob Tisinai

June 19th, 2012

The enemies of marriage equality are pushing Mark Regneres’ recent study as a sterling scientific achievement, but it contains a landmine that they’re either ignoring or just blundering past: There are a lot more non-straight folk out there than they want to admit.

We used to toss around Kinsey’s 10% figure as the percentage of people who are LGB. Lately that’s been revised to 4 or 5%. Our opponents have even tried to knock it down to 1.4%. It’s part of their argument: Why are we spending so much time on such a tiny segment of the population? As though the Constitution listed some numerical requirement before individual rights kicked in.

But the Regnerus study knocks all that to hell. It holds two surprises, one small and one big.

First, the small surprise. Of the folks who specified their orientation (42 declined to answer), 6.6% said they were bi, mostly gay, or 100% gay. That’s higher than expected. But here’s the shocker:

Of the people who gave an answer, only 80.1% called themselves completely straight.

80.1%.

80.1%!

Regnerus claims this of his study:

“[I]t is a random, nationally-representative sample of the American population. At last count, over 350 working papers, conference presentations, published articles, and books have used Knowledge Networks’ panels, including the 2009 National Survey of Sexual Health and Behavior, whose extensive results were featured in an entire volume of the Journal of Sexual Medicine—and prominently in the media—in 2010.

And perhaps he’s right. We’ve slammed him for his strange definitions of “gay” and “lesbian,” for his strange sorting criteria, and for his strange claims that he’s collected a significant sample of “same-sex parents,” but those are different issues. Anyway, the real quandary here is for those who are desperately pushing his results.

Keep in mind that these Regnerus’ sample only covers 18-39-year-olds. I’d love to dig into the data and break it down into smaller age groups (18-23, 23- 28, etc), but that won’t be possible until he makes the details available this fall. Personally, my theory is that surveys of sexual orientation have traditionally undercounted the minority, and we may be seeing a correction of that as the stigma of non-heterosexuality continues to fade.

But in any case, one thing is clear: If our opponents accept the Regnerus study, they have to accept that America is far more sexually diverse than they cared to believe.

I don’t know why this is so funny to me.

Rob Tisinai

June 19th, 2012

Maybe I have the emotional maturity of 13-year-old, but I keep snickering at this question from the Regneres study.

Q115 Have you ever had anal intercourse? (By anal intercourse, we mean when a man inserts his penis into his partner’s anus or butt hole.)

Maybe it’s the utter earnestness of the question and (especially) the clarification; or the look I imagine on someone’s face on hearing the question and (especially) the clarification; or the splitting of “butthole” into two words – what kind of hole? a butt kind of hole; or it’s the nonsensical “or” — his partner’s anus or butt hole (but not both?).

Or maybe it’s just funny.

An interesting note, though. Of the survey’s 2988 respondents, 2361 called themselves 100% heterosexual (that’s 79%), and 2729 were “mostly heterosexual” (or 91%).

Yet an ass-smacking 1145 said they’d had anal sex — almost 40%!

Keep that figure in mind next time you hear someone talking about the disgusting practices of the male homosexual. It ain’t a gay thing. It’s a human thing.

And now I offer my apologies and return you to usual gravitas and decorum of Box Turtle Bulletin.

I Don’t Care Who Financed Prof. Regnerus

Rob Tisinai

June 15th, 2012

I’m confident we’ve exposed Prof. Mark Regnerus’ study as a mess. We’ve ripped him for so many flaws. His sorting of its respondents; his definitions of “gay,” “lesbian,” and “same-sex parenting”; his sample size; his statistical significance; his unsupported statements to the popular press.

In doing so, we’ve haven’t simply torn holes in his work. We’ve legitimately questioned his integrity as a scientist.

And yet some folks believe we’re on the wrong track. The New Civil Rights Movement points out the study was financed by right-wing groups with ties to the National Organization for Marriage:

Mark Regnerus‘s recently-released, anti-gay, Republican political propaganda was a trap set by the malicious anti-gay bigots at the National Organization for Marriage.

Where NOM intended to trap people, and, so far, has largely succeeded in trapping people, is in getting them to blah-blah-blah about the details of Regnerus’s junk findings, instead of talking very pointedly about the genesis of the junk…

…The words in Regnerus’s junk study — and in Marks’s equal heap of anti-gay junk — should not be dignified by repeating them in order to rebut them.

I respectfully disagree. When it comes to who funded the study…I mostly don’t care.

Not that it’s completely irrelevant. It heightens our scrutiny. It provides an answer for the good-hearted and incredulous who object, But why would a scientist do such bad work? (Timothy Kincaid has a good piece on that.)

Ultimately, though, it’s not merely a fallacy to focus so much on the personalities and motivations behind a study. It’s also a trap you set for yourself. I see this scenario all too often in our opponents:

A scientist makes an objective study of gays and lesbians and announces favorable results. Our opponents seize on that as proof that the scientist is a pro-homosexual activist, and therefore fatally tainted with bias.

It’s an odd bit of illogic to dismiss your opponents’ arguments simply because they come from your opponents. And it hurts you. Outside views can never challenge you. You’ve limited your own thinking with a habit of epistemic closure. You’ve even given fair-minded folk a rationale for ignoring gay-positive science done by gay researchers or funded by gay groups.

Worst of all, the undecided middle now has reason to think you don’t have a genuine reply. Some might be impressed by: It was funded by an anti-gay group. But how much more effective to say:  My god, his whole $800,000 study only looked at two — yes, two — kids who were raised entirely by same-sex couples, and he won’t even say how those two turned out!

The first reply questions the study’s integrity. The second demolishes it. Why would you merely question if you have the power to demolish?

And here’s a secret. For all their talk of being “silenced” by homosexual activists, our opponents don’t want an open conversation. We saw this, hilariously, in the Prop 8 proceedings. A number of their expert witnesses backed out of testifying, allegedly because they feared for their safety. So how did our own all-star legal team respond? By calling one of these hostile witnesses to the stand, and by showing videotaped pre-trial depositions from two others.

It was a huge win for us: their testimony highlighted the irrationality and ignorance of our opponents. And don’t forget about David Blankenhorn, the opposition witness with enough foolhardy courage to take the stand. He ended up having to admit he’d once written, “We would be more American on the day we permitted same-sex marriage than we were on the day before.”

You only find this out through dialog, through analysis, through holding responsible for what they’ve said and done. The other side wants to side-step all that. Too many of them positively thrive on shadowy innuendo about hidden agendas driven by secret motives. Don’t take the conversation to that world.

The average undecided person isn’t going to remember who financed which study. The average undecided person is going to remember their reaction on hearing the stupid crap the researchers tried to pull off. That feeling of disgusted wonderment will stick with them, even if the details do not.

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