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Posts for May, 2013

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.

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.

Prop 8 Amicus Brief Filer Calls For “International Intervention,” Charges Gay Parents With “Slave Trade”

Jim Burroway

January 31st, 2013

Robert Oscar Lopez

Yesterday, I posted this about a couple of unusual Amicus Curiae briefs filed with the U.S. Supreme Court urging the Justices to uphold California’s Proposition 8. One of those briefs, by David Benkof (a self-described gay columnist who opposes same-sex marriage), Robert Oscar Lopez (who describes himself as a bisexual man who was raised by two lesbian mothers and who is currently heterosexually married), and Doug Mainwaring (a man who raised two teenage sons after separating from his wife and coming out gay, and is now back living with his wife), tries to make the case that there is some kind of heretofore undiscovered groundswell of gay people opposing marriage equality. It begins with a statement arguing that “Americans ought not be labeled hateful bigots for opposing redefinition (of marriage).”

I suppose that argument can be made generally, but in Lopez’s case, it’s hard to find another word which would adequately describe his views on the subject. Lopez, an assistant professor in the English Department at Cal State Northridge, posted on this blog last Sunday something that he seems to regard as a major rallying cry. Titled, “Statement: Though I support LGBT dignity, I call on the human rights community to fight human rights violations by LGBT organizations,” it is written in outline form — patterned after other Very Important Declarations which are composed of numbered paragraphs and subparagraphs so that scholars and historians can cite the each Very Important Point without ambiguity. And what a manifesto it is. He begins by arguing that ”the democratic process in Western nations and the judicial system of the United States have failed, for over twenty years, to deal in good faith with the bioethical and social-justice problems” posed by LGBT rights advocates. And because of that failure, he calls for some kind of “international intervention”:

II. I state the following without a party affiliation, since I cannot in this case agree with the right wing’s usual resistance to international intervention, nor can I endorse the left wing’s ideology of gay equality, which currently presages a large-scale global human-rights crisis in order to meet the affective demands of gay couples for rights to ownership of children.

…VI. The legal system, academia, the fourth estate, the judicial system, and the political process in the United States have proven themselves inadequate in some cases, grossly negligent in others, totally powerless in some instances, but consistently failing in correcting the human-rights crisis precipitated by the modern LGBT movement and its systematic violation of the rights of children, not only in the United States but also overseas, its continued assault on the dignity of human fatherhood and motherhood, and its increasing complicity with human trafficking, its fraudulent propaganda, its bioethical improprieties, class exploitation, contempt for the democratic process, and violations of the basic principles of free speech, free exercise of religion, and academic freedom.
VII. The time for intervention is now because:

1. With the increase in the number of people entering adulthood identifying as gay (see recent Gallup polling), and encouraged by popular culture to acquire children to express their equality, the human rights crisis will worsen. The sheer volume of same-sex couples who view children as an entitlement and who see their need for equality as overriding the rights of others will aggravate the problem.

2. The usual institutions that would normally identify an oncoming human rights crisis and thwart it are malfunctioning in the United States …

Does he want some kind of military or paramilitary intervention? International sanctions? Statement of condemnation from the United Nations? He doesn’t say, but we do know why. In this piece posted the same day at American Thinker, where he links to his manifesto as a supporting document, he describes what he calls “the oncoming human rights crisis… caused by the LGBT movement.” As Lopez sees it, that crisis manifests itself in the children that gay couples are raising, which Lopez calls “human trafficking“:

The movement to liberate same-sex love began because people loved each other. Somehow, through convoluted digressions, it has become a tyrannical octopus seeking to control life and death itself.

The Rubicon was crossed when the gay movement sided with human trafficking; graft-ridden dirty deals with warlords for orphanages; bio-engineering, baby-farming, and emotional deprivation of innocent children by forcing them to replace a biological parent with a fictional same-sex partner. Naturally, any child forced into such a psychically traumatic origin fantasy who feels resentful about it will be cursed by its caretakers as not only ungrateful, but also a homophobe.

Lopez describes himself as the son of a lesbian mother who was raised by two women. In this post that he wrote for the Witherspoon Institute in which he praised the Institute’s flawed Regneres paper claiming to study “gay parents,” Lopez contends that his childhood was marred due to the lack of male role models, and claims that he still fails to pick up on what he calls “unspoken gender cues that everyone around me.” That’s why, he says, “I have trouble in professional settings because co-workers find me bizarre.”

Okay.

But whatever complaints he may have against his moms’, whatever pain, anger, scars and traumas he may have experienced as a child, for all we know, they may be wholly legitimate. But whatever reality in which those pains may be grounded evaporates when he deploys his imagination against gay parents, which he charges with facilitating a new “slave trade“:

…The fight for marriage has never been about marriage. Marriage is the only way to have legal cover and shield themselves from criticism for their bioethical stunts.

Market demand is a powerful thing, and it is growing because of the increase in LGBT couples as well as the cultural messages convincing young gays that they will be given children or else society is oppressing them. Here in Los Angeles, I’ve seen the eerie proliferation of designer babies in gayborhoods, and the increasingly anesthetized reaction of gay couples’ friends. People go to third-world getaways to pick out babies, place ads for surrogates who can give them a certain eye color, and even collaborate with human trafficking. Never forgetful of my own pains as a lesbian’s son in the 1970s, I see the faces of these gay couple’s children, and sometimes, I have to run away and cry. I know the dazed glare, the powerlessness of these children, their helpless desire to please their parents, their fear of showing their parents any sign that the arrangement has been hurtful.

And yet, I can scarcely forget, this is only the beginning. While some say “it gets better,” all signs show that it will grow far worse. LGBT activists have been frustrated so far by the largest Western nations’ resistance to legalizing gay marriage. In this table, a Francophone researcher discusses the gay-marriage statistics from Spain, the Netherlands, Belgium, and Quebec. Remember that France, Germany, Great Britain, and Italy, the more populous nations of Europe, have still resisted full marriage equality. Already in tiny Belgium, 5% of marriages are same-sex. What will happen with the combined populations of Germany, France, Great Britain, Italy, and the United States — 570 million people in all — legalize gay marriage, with 5% of that mass being same-sex couples looking to buy babies?

We are staring into the dawn of a new slave trade. Rather than let the Middle Passage happen and then spend centuries trying to exonerate our nation, we must be “on the right side of history.” Stop gay marriage — not because of hate for gay people, but because the machine that is turning people into chattel must be stopped. The only way to break the cycle and wake everyone up is stop gay marriage.

Benkof, Lopez and Mainwaring write in their brief (PDF: 127KB/ 14 pages) to the Supreme Court, “We believe strongly that opposition to gay marriage need not be rooted in hatred towards gay people” and caution the Court against “brand(ing) the views of millions of Americans ‘discriminatory’ or rooted in animus.” But obviously Lopez’s views are rooted in animus, and a very deep-seated one at that. There’s simply no other way to describe it.

Prop 8 Amicus Briefs, Brought to You by the Lunatic Fringe

Jim Burroway

January 30th, 2013

Dozens of organizations and individuals have filed Amicus Curiae briefs with the U.S. Supreme Court arguing either for or against California’s Proposition 8. A couple of them are worth looking at, if for no other reason than for their entertainment value. For example, there’s this brief filed by Margie Phelps for Westboro
Baptist Church. Amicus Curiae briefs are expected to follow several conventions, and the ways in which Westboro’s brief observes them is indicative of Westboro’s highly entertaining approach to things.

First, instead of being a brief in support of petitioners (the pro-Prop 8 side) or respondents (the side that wants to overturn Prop 8), Westboro’s brief is filed “in support of neither party.” Okay.

And then there’s the Table of Authorities. A typical brief will be loaded up with citations to case law, along with other citations to “other authorities,” which would include sources like studies, articles, books, speeches, transcripts, etc. Of Westboro’s 66 citations under “Other Authorities,” 36 of them are Bible quotes. Which means that there are several pages with nothing but reproduced bible passages, including five pages devoted to the entire story of Sodom and Gomorrah. (“This historical event described in Genesis 19:1-28, Holy Bible, must be considered at this hour…”) The brief also has a lengthy retelling of the Great Flood (“The description of the complete destruction of all mankind – a population as or bigger than today’s population…”).

And after all that, Westboro concludes:

Same-sex marriage will destroy this nation. If the leaders of this country treat what God has called abominable as something to be respected, revered,and blessed with the seal of approval of the government, that will cross a final line with God. The harm that will befall this nation, when the condign destructive wrath of God pours out on a nation that purposefully, in a calculating manner, institutionalizes marriage licenses for same-sex unions, is the ultimate harm to the health, welfare and safety of the people. The government is duty bound – in this Christian nation – to institute the standard of God on marriage, and pass and uphold laws that forbid same-sex marriage.

By the way, Westboro filed an identical brief for United States v Windsor, which challenges the constitutionality of the Defense of Marriage Act. If nothing else, I guess that ensures both consistency as well as economy.

Another interesting brief (PDF: 127KB/ 14 pages) calling for the court to uphold Prop 8 comes from a man by the name of David Benkoff. It’s been nearly four years since we last heard from him. Here’s how Timothy Kincaid introduced him to BTB readers in 2008:

David Benkof has been getting a bit of attention lately.

And at first glace David appears to be a young gay man who believes that there are better options for gay couples than marriage, that the community should join him in prioritizing other more pressing issues, that the marriage discussion is harming the efforts of gay couples in red states to get recognition for their unions, and that he wants to help. We’d also think that he’s a gay columnist, that he speaks for an influential collection of gay thinkers, and that he is part of the gay and lesbian community and shares our goals and dreams.

None of that is true.

During the Prop 8 campaign, he trotted out his gay/straight/bi/Idunno-guy-against-same-sex-marriage schtick with a web site called “Gays Defend Marriage,” in which he claimed to be a “gay columnist” who was against same-sex marriage. Timothy Kincaid exposed the charade, Benkoff doubled down, and then he abruptly left the scene, saying he “recently learned quite a bit of disturbing information that makes it impossible for me to continue supporting a movement I no longer respect.”

Well, he’s back now. And for this amicus brief, Benkof teamed up with Robert Oscar Lopez (described as a bisexual man who was raised by two lesbian mothers and who is currently heterosexually married), and Doug Mainwaring (a man who raised two teenage sons after separating from his wife and coming out gay.) Again, we see a familiar pattern: people with life credentials which are supposed to demonstrate their connection to the gay community but who are arguing that the gay community needs to be shown its second-class place in society. Lopez has been playing that schtick at the Witherspoon Institute, which sponsored the flawed Regneres paper claiming to study “gay parents.” Lopez contributed an anti-gay tract at the Witherspoon Institute’s web site praising Regnerus’s paper. Mainwaring is a NOM discovery, who wrote in opposition to same-sex marriage in a tea party newsletter and, more recently, in The Christian Post. Their brief includes all of the standard NOM talking points — watered down and polited up, like NOM might be when on its very best behavior — to try to make the impression that there is an undiscovered reservoir of gay people who oppose marriage equality:

Amici  come from a variety of families of origin, we have different religious beliefs and we differ among ourselves about whether legislature should redefine marriage to include same-sex couples. We all believe, however, that Americans ought not be labeled hateful bigots for opposing redefinition.

Our position is based on a shared commitment that marriage is society’s institutional expression of a child’s right to a mother and a father. We are not alone. The ongoing debate over marriage in France has prominently featured gay people who support keeping the understanding of marriage as a union of a husband and wife.

We, and they, believe gay people should be free to love and live as they choose but we also recognize that society has a right to express a rational preference for the kind of unions necessary to the survival of the whole society, and to the well-being of children. Some gay, lesbian and bisexual people will benefit from this preference as they marry a person of the opposite sex.

As you can well guess, Benkof and friends are utterly silent about how LGB people might “benefit from this preference.” They just kind of put that out there. The rest of the brief is basically 14 pages of concern trolling amidst a complete absence of actual facts. (Interestingly, they don’t even bother to mention the Regnerus paper.) It’s much like the Westboro brief that way. Birds of a feather…

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.

I Tolerate You So Much, You Need to Shut Up and Hide!

Rob Tisinai

September 24th, 2012

I’ve been blogging a few years now and it’s been a long time since I read something that made me as angry as what I read last night.

Jeremy Hooper of Good As You points us to a piece by Anthony Esolen, Professor of English at Providence College. He’s writing in a Witherspoon publication — the same folks who financed the Regnerus study.

Esolen thinks well of himself — he is a great and good-hearted tolerant man, and it’s bugging the crap out of him that we homosexuals are not giving him his due. In his words:

Tolerance of wrong-doing is freely given; it is an act of graciousness, and not the paying of a debt. Therefore it rests with the offender, at the very least, to refrain from aggravating the burden of tolerance.

Esolen wants me to know that any public acknowledgement of my relationship with Will is an aggravation of Esolen’s burden. And this is Esolen being gracious.

It’s easy to summarize the man’s essay, because it says so little. It’s hard to do it using his own words, because he uses so many. But let me try. After several paragraphs invoking Thomas Aquinas and exploring Latin, Old English, and German word roots, he gives an example:

The local convenience store sells Playboy magazine. They are legally permitted to sell it. But it is a wrong; it degrades the beauty of the human body and turns sexuality from its proper sphere in marriage to the private quest for gratification. If they tacitly request tolerance, they tacitly incur a debt of reciprocity. They will keep the offensive magazine out of sight.

Yes: He’s willing to tolerate the existence of something as long as it’s kept out of sight. This sets up his view homosexuality — he lets us happen, and we acknowledge our debt by hiding ourselves away.

He starts like this:  Read the rest of this entry »

First Look at Mark Regnerus’s Study on Children of Parents In Same-Sex Relationships

Jim Burroway

June 10th, 2012

Mark Regnerus. "How different are the adult children of parents who have same-sex relationships? Findings from the New Families Structure Study." Social Science Research 41, no 4 (July 2012): 752-770.

A new study slated for the July issue of the journal Social Science Research claims to show significant differences in adverse outcomes among children raised by gay and lesbian parents when compared to children raised by both biological parents in a heterosexual-headed household. The study is not yet online but I have been provided an advance copy. [Update: it is now available for purchase.] It is by Mark Regnerus of the University of Texas’s Department of Sociology and Population Research Center, and is titled, “How Different are the Adult Children of Parents Who Have Same-Sex Relationships? Findings from the New Family Structures Study.”

This study finds “numerous, consistent differences, especially between children of women who have had a lesbian relationship and those with still-married (heterosexual) biological parents.” The results of this study would up-end some thirty years of established scientific research which showed that gay and lesbian parents are, on the whole, just as good as their straight counterparts. It would, at least, if the study’s methodology were designed to prove that point. But as is the case with all studies, the conclusions drawn by this study are only as good as the methodologies used to inform them.

The Study’s Sample
On that score, there is one significant strength to this study which makes it stand out. Unlike prior studies, the New Family Structures Study (NFSS) is based on a national probability sampled population. This is the gold standard for all social science studies, and it’s extremely rare for a study to achieve that mark. As far as I am aware, all of the studies to date of gay and lesbian parenting use non-representative convenience samples. National probability samples, unlike convenience samples, are important because they alone can be generalized to the broader populations, to the extent that key characteristics in the design of the probability sample (demographics, etc.) match those of the general population. Convenience samples can’t do that. (For more information on convenience samples versus national probability samples, click here.)

So why don’t the other studies use national probability samples? Believe me, every researcher would much rather work with national probability samples instead of convenience samples. But virtually nobody can afford the huge cost of putting such a study together. It is a massive undertaking, and the cost of creating such a data set is just too prohibitive. Regnerus however has overcome this limitation (PDF: 74KB/12 pages) with a generous $695,000 grant from the Witherspoon Institute and a supplemental $90,000 grant from the Bradley Foundation. With more than three quarters of a million dollars, he has the kind of funding that other researchers can only dream of.

Click here to read the rest of this post.

How to recognize a homophobe

Timothy Kincaid

April 27th, 2012

Here at Box Turtle Bulletin we don’t throw around the term “homophobe”. People may have positions that differ with mine without holding personal animus and labeling them with a pejorative term pretty much precludes any future efforts to reach them with reason.

For example, many libertarian minded people may oppose non-discrimination policies not out of any personal desire to discriminate, but out of the desire to be free to do so without their government coming in and telling them that some hiring decisions are unacceptable. They might laugh at those who eliminate a qualified candidate due to race or orientation and figure that such decisions will hurt their business.

Others may seriously believe that marriage equality is a detriment to society, or are – at least presently – not yet ready to go as far as marriage. Yes, sometimes those objections are based in undue deference to tradition or to fear or even to prejudice, but that does not make them homophobes. For example, New Jersey Governor Christie opposes marriage equality, but still publicly advocates for civil unions and has no hesitation about socializing with gay people or appointing them to the supreme court. And I doubt anyone would describe President Obama as a homophobe.

But homophobes do exist. (And for the fools who say “homophobe means afraid of homosexuals and I’m not afraid of no pansies”, no, that isn’t what ‘homophobe’ means, you homophobe). And sometimes a situation arises that allows you to identify those who base their policies on principle and those who act out of animus.

Such a situation has arisen.

Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney has selected Richard Grenell as his foreign policy spokesman. Grenell is gay and, as seems to be the case with virtually every gay person from the most liberal to what some call “sell-out quislings” (i.e. all gay people registered Republican), Grenell believes that gay citizens are entitled to the same rights and recognitions to marriage as heterosexual citizens.

To most Americans – hell, to most Republicans – this is not exactly worth noting. Republicans claim to support meritocracy and hire those who are best qualified without regard to race, religion, and sexual orientation – and most probably do (or, at least, have convinced themselves that they do). So for Romney to select Grenell, who served as Director of Communications and Public Diplomacy for the United States Permanent Representative to the United Nations under George W. Bush, is hardly an eyebrow raiser.

(And to be honest – okay, to be cynical – Romney’s opposition to marriage equality is probably as firmly committed as his opposition to mandated health care or any other position he happens to be espousing today. He seems to share with our current president – and most of our past ones – a strong devotion to whichever way the wind is blowing.)

But for some, hiring a gay man is unacceptable. Those folks are called homophobes.

Now 20 years ago homophobes would have railed about the homoSEEEXshulls infiltrating positions of power and proudly announced that they would have nothing to do with no perverts. Today that doesn’t sell well. So instead they come up with criteria that precludes hiring gay people and rant about that instead. It’s not their orientation that we object to, it’s their liberal anti-american position on fill in the blank.

For example, Matthew J. Franck – Director of the William E. and Carol G. Simon Center on Religion and the Constitution at the Witherspoon Institute – ranted in National Review.

Grenell has made a particular crusade of the marriage issue, with a kind of unhinged devotion that suggests a man with questionable judgment. And when the Obama State Department is already moving to elevate the gay-rights agenda to a higher plane than religious freedom in the foreign policy of the United States, it is reasonable to wonder whether Grenell, after taking such a prominent place in the Romney campaign’s foreign-policy shop, would be in line for an influential State posting where he could pursue his passion for that same agenda.

You see, it’s not him being gay or even supporting equality, it’s his unhinged devotion.

(To his credit, National Review columnist Kevin D. Williamson snarked all over Franck’s head: “…surely to preemptively attack an aide to Mitt Romney because he disagrees with you on a single issue — an issue that is not a very large part of the foreign-policy portfolio, one that ought to be about No. 13,479 on our national to-worry-about list — might to the uncharitable eye appear to be something like “unhinged devotion,” and in any case those of us who work at think tanks or journals of opinion might want to be a bit circumspect when arguing that a man should be distrusted because his devotion to a cause is too zealous.”)

Such a nice easy example: Matthew J. Franck is a homophobe.

He’s not alone, of course. Plenty of others, like American Family Association’s Bryan Fischer (who I really do believe is mentally ill) joined the fray. And, of course, there are haters of the other brand (Republiphobes?) who hate (yes, that is the accurate term) Grenell for his party affiliation (I suppose they absurdly believe that we are better served by having no gay people advise or have positions of power in Republican administrations – but we’ll save that for another time.)

For today, we’ll just note that Franck stands out as an excellent illustration on how to recognize a homophobe.

FRC Disapointed With Donnelly’s Testimony?

Jim Burroway

July 25th, 2008

You bet they are. Yesterday, right on schedule, the Family “Research” Council sent out their daily Washington Update yesterday as they always do. Washington Updates typically consist of three stories, and yesterday’s top story was one which blamed Elaine Donnelly’s utterly deplorable testimony before the House Armed Services personnel subcommittee on “rude congressmen” instead of  Donnelly’s own abysmal incompetence:

Rude Congressmen Tell and Don’t Ask at Hearing

For the first time since Congress beat back Bill Clinton’s effort to bring homosexuals into the military in 1993, there was a hearing on the topic yesterday on Capitol Hill, which FRC’s Vice President for Policy Peter Sprigg and several Witherspoon Fellows attended. The Democrats in Congress are laying the groundwork for action next year, when they hope Barack Obama will be president, to overturn the law which codified the military’s longstanding policy excluding homosexuals. Elaine Donnelly, president of the Center for Military Readiness, and Sgt. Major Brian Jones, a veteran of the Army’s elite Delta Force, ably defended the law in the face of shockingly disrespectful and even abusive questioning by members of the House Military Personnel subcommittee. Particularly egregious was the behavior of Rep. Vic Snyder (D-Ark.), who said that Donnelly’s concern about the impact of HIV-positive soldiers was “dumb” and that her testimony about behaviors common among homosexuals was “bonkers.” Rep. Carol Shea-Porter (D-N.H.) used the silly line, “When did you decide to be heterosexual?” The false assumptions that people are “born gay” and can never change, and that homosexuality is equivalent to race, permeated the questioning. Yet no one explained how it would benefit the military to recruit service members who plan to commit acts which are criminal under the Uniform Code of Military Justice.

This morning, that lame defense of Donnelly is gone, along with the rest of the entire Washington Update for the day.