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.


April 10th, 2014

OMG, this is so delish!!!
And for some historical reference it was first here on Box Turtle Bulletin that we learned about the Regnerus study. I was soconcenred I started e-mailing Regnerus that Sunday June 11, 2012 before it became available for free on line the next day. And Regnerus e-mailed me back! I published those e-mails in comments here on BTB!

It has been a long Regnerus Journey for all of us who care about Equal Civil Rights for Sexual Minorities. I am very proud that it was the Gay Rights Activists who exposed the evidence that has been used in these trials. Not lawyers, not gay rights organizations, but named and unnamed Gay Rights Activists who saw the purpose of the research and knew they had to discover the truth, and they did.

Why did Judge Friedman reject Regnerus et al? It was the evidence that showed the collusion between all of them. Who got that evidence? Gay Rights Activists! Combine the collusion evidence along with the expert and decimating testimony of Dr. Michael Rosenfeld out of Stanford, who downloaded the data and did his own analysis and Regnerus et al were defeated.

All that money, all those hopes that they had a smoking gun, in fact they *built the smoking gun*, down the drain. EXPOSED. We are changing history here, we are, we really are. We are leaving them naked with their claims of science shows having gay parents is harmful to children. We have pulled back the curtain where everyone can see, the Emperor is naked ;-)

The fight continues in Florida where John Becker is at Trial fighting for his open records requests of the publishing records. John wrote about that here-

I have a strong intuition you might call it, that other efforts are continuing. Oh that letter from the AG of Utah is delish, isn’t it? I mean it is simply delish.


April 10th, 2014

I have to confess, I read the State’s supplemental comments and had to laugh. I think it’s called “backpedaling,” and it’s fast and furious.


April 10th, 2014

OMG. Now I know why I was not a success. My parents were heterosexuals so I was deprived of being raised in a same sex household. And not only that but both of my parents were white so I must have been deprived of being raised in a multicultural/multiracial household as well. How could they have done this to me?


April 10th, 2014

“Utah is going to argue that allowing gay people to marry will have a long-term impact on children of heterosexual parents.”—It makes about as much sense as any other argument they could use, so why not?


April 10th, 2014

Snark alert.

Utah’s concern about the children of heterosexual parents is completely valid. Every homosexual person I know, every one, resulted from opposite-gender sexual intercourse. Thus, if we are to prevent future children of opposite-gender sexual intercourse from being homosexual, opposite-gender sexual intercourse must be banned. Making same-gender marriage the only legal framework for marriage is one clear path to preventing opposite-gender sexual intercourse and in so doing, prevent future children from becoming homosexual.

End of snark.


April 10th, 2014

Wow, I guess Regnerus is another victim of the pitchfork wielding gaystapo? People are attacking him and threatening his livelihood just because he expressed his sincerely held religious views on marriage and is trying to make sure that the law reflects his view.


April 10th, 2014

That $800,000 dollars isn’t looking so wisely spent right now.


April 10th, 2014

Although I am sorely tempted to echo the snark of TampaZeke above, I will refrain.

But I must comment that serious postings like this one is why I come to BTB. I am so tired of nonsensical postings like those in defense of Eich and a recent posting attacking a student who committed the grave sin of wanting Stanford University to be a safe place for lgbt students that I am tempted to avoid the site entirely. But this post reminds me why BTB is so valuable.

Thank you for this post and for your pioneering work in exposing charlatans like Rekers (in the Sissy Boy study), the Uganda evangelists, and Regnerus. That is why I come here.


April 10th, 2014

Ironic, isn’t it, given how Utah now admits that the Regnerus “study” was bogus, that Utah’s Attorney General yesterday filed an emergency petition to put a hold on lawfully married same-sex couples from adopting or co-adopting children. The couples were given only three days to hire lawyers and respond.


Ben in Oakland

April 10th, 2014

I’ve read the thing three times, and I’m still not exactly sure what they are claiming. My first reaction was the same as the column’s. But each time I’ve read it it has made even less sense.

Well, no one said bigots were necessarily all that smart.

Ben in Oakland

April 10th, 2014

The more I think about this, the more I keep wondering…

Did Utah just trash any state from using Regnerus in their briefs?

The Lauderdale

April 10th, 2014


My God. Thank you for posting that. I hadn’t seen it yet.


April 10th, 2014

Put away your pitchforks!

I really don’t sense much magnanimity here toward the good Professor Regnerus, who was just a hard-workin’ academic, trying to shine a light on the path toward truth. …Right?

Please distinguish the cases of: 1) Mark Regnerus; 2) Brandan Eich; and 3)Sam Yagen.

Why, of the three, would Mr. Eich be deserving of understanding and tolerance when the other two would not?

Rob Tisinai

April 10th, 2014

Mark Regnerus comes in for harsh criticism because he is a sociologist doing bad sociology. The criticism directed toward him (at BTB at least) is grounded in that very specific and detailed criticism of his work that we’ve explored in depth.

In other words, by showing the flaws in his sociology work, we demonstrate that his sociology work should not be taken seriously.


April 10th, 2014

Finding it difficult to understand why we should be compassionate towards Eich, who donated $1,000 to an anti-gay political campaign, and yet we are supposed to mock Regnerus, who prepared an anti-gay “study.”

They both hate gay people in their own way. They both have attempted to curtail the civil rights of gay folks. And yet this dichotomy.

Just don’t get it.


April 10th, 2014

@Ben in Oakland, it was the Michigan judge that dismissed Regnerus first when he wrote “The Court finds Regnerus’s testimony entirely unbelievable and not worthy of serious consideration” and put his “study” in the appropriate quotes. Utah said the mor(m)on equivalent of Holy Sh!T! and tried to back-pedal from using the “study”, which destroyed a major foundation of their (equally appropriate quotes) “arguments”.



April 10th, 2014

My eyes slowly squinted further as I read through that last citation. And I read it again to make sure that I had actually read that right. I concur with you, good luck with that…

I’m rather curious to see how far their imagination will take them to ‘evaluate’ the long term impact of same-sex marriage on heterosexually raised children. Nevertheless, I guess when you have a starting point(from religion or nurture) that an intrinsic evil is at the heart of homosexuality, making that type of connection might be quite naturally resulting. Finding evidence is probably deemed just a matter of looking for it.


April 11th, 2014

I’m not really seeing the Eich/Regnerus comparison here.

Eich is like the awkward dinner guest. It’s all good as long as no one brings up that unfortunate incident.

Regnerus is more your insane, racist Grandpa, best left upstairs in his flat, referred to only as a cautionary tale.

I can see the nice, classical liberal position of keeping Eich’s name on the invite list, even though I’m not entirely sympathetic. But with Regnerus, really, there’s no excusing him.


April 11th, 2014

Wow, hijacking an unrelated post to keep flaming a blogger for expressing an opinion you don’t agree with – real classy. But since somebody else has already tried changing the subject, let me thank Jim, Timothy and the rest for being brave enough to express opinions that, for me, seem more measured and tempered, especially against the cacophony of “Hang ’em high” I hear from most people whenever they are the least little bit offended. Even if I find I don’t completely agree with them, these guys at least challenge my assumptions and push me to more clearly justify to myself my feelings and their resultant actions. Instead of hitting the rage button every time someone says something we don’t agree with, wouldn’t it be great to at least sit back and ponder if they have any good points, then calmly offering any alternatives you find?

Now, for the relevant bit. How does marriage between people of the same-sex affect children of heterosexual relationships? 1) It threatens the stability of any opposite-orientation relationships (perhaps many of those children of “homosexual” parents in Regnerus’ study came from such an arrangement) resulting in bad turnouts for those children. 2) It threatens to discourage gay people from marrying people of the opposite gender, denying society the benefit of any children so conceived (in spite of the likely bad turn out due to the inevitable collapse of their parent’s marriage). 3) It shows that gay people can commit to each other, build lives together, and establish a family together, undermining the myth that only the magical union of penis and vagina are capable of these things, and demonstrating to children of heterosexual couples that it is OK if you’re gay. In conclusion, Utah would like us to take away this one message: Regnerus’ study proves that only couples of opposite-sex make-up are capable of having children (even if one of them is gay), and since gay couples don’t have any children, why are we even having this argument.


April 11th, 2014

Sorry Tisinai, not buying it. Bad sociology? Bad sociological research happens every day. It would take ten billion lab monkeys typing in 10 million universes for all of 10 thousand eternities to refute all the bad sociology that has already been published.

Regnerus, quite rightly, has been publically and professionally depantsed because his “research” intentionally and deliberately targeted gays and lesbians who were trying to exercise their right to marry. Regnerus is also an easy target because his “research” gets disproportionate attention when it is used in court cases as support for denying marriage equality.

Eich, similarly, got called on the carpet because his financial support was for a movement that targeted gays and lesbians for unequal treatment. The movement to which Eich contributed also involved many of the same players involved with Regnerus. Eich, similarly, received disproportionate attention because he was ascending to the top position of a high-profile company in an industry that is by and large sympathetic to pro-equality arguments, and because people didn’t trust him not to continue supporting anti-equality causes, and perhaps as CEO influencing the policies of the company he headed.

Regenerus isn’t just being shamed for bad sociology or dishonest research. He’s being shamed because his lies affect gays and lesbians negatively, and because they do so disproportionately to other “bad sociology”.

In both the Regnerus and Eich cases, opposition to them is based on the group that was targeted (LGBTs), and the (potential) scope of the damage that could be inflicted (denial of equality), not just on bad research (Regnerus) or bad leglislation/bad company policy (Eich).

Let’s not pretend that one is less despicable than the other.

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