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Topics In the News
 
Fraudulent Regnerus Study Funded to Impugn Gay Parents before the Supreme Court, Documents Confirm
Posted by: Claude J. Summers on 03/11/13
Last updated on: 03/11/13
 
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Mark Regnerus.

Documents obtained by The American Independent through the Freedom of Information Act confirm long-held suspicions that the fraudulent "New Family Structures" study by University of Texas sociologist Mark Regnerus was funded in order to impugn the parenting skills of same-sex couples in judicial proceedings. The documents reveal how the anti-gay Witherspoon Institute, which funded it, enlisted Regnerus to undertake the study in order to influence anticipated Supreme Court deliberations on same-sex marriage.

Documents released by the University of Texas in response to a Freedom of Information Act request illustrate clearly that Regnerus's paper was commissioned in order to further the anti-gay agenda of the Witherspoon Institute and other conservative foundations. These foundations paid almost $800,000 to create a facsimile of scholarship that could be used in judicial arguments to support the claim that same-sex couples are less capable as parents than opposite-sex couples and that children reared by same-sex couples are more troubled than those reared by opposite-sex couples. An analysis of the documents by Sofia Resnick may be found in the Huffington Post; the documents themselves may be found at the American Independent.

Regnerus's article entitled "How Different Are the Adult Children of Parents Who Have Same-sex Relationships? Findings from the New Families Structure Study," published in June 2012 in Social Science Research, purported to prove that children of gay and lesbian parents have adverse outcomes. It claimed to find "numerous, consistent differences, especially between children of women who have had a lesbian relationship and those with still-married (heterosexual) biological parents." It attempted to debunk established scientific research that has consistently shown that gay and lesbian parents exhibit parenting skills equal to heterosexual parents.

Critics immediately pointed out that Regnerus does not compare "same-sex families" and "opposite-sex families." Rather, as John Corvino put it, he compares broken families to intact families and pretends that he has discovered something significant when he announces that children of intact families do better on a number of measures than children of broken families.

Regnerus asked adults between ages 18 and 39 whether their mothers or fathers had ever had a same-sex relationship, regardless of the duration of the relationship and "regardless of any other household transitions." Regnerus' "Lesbian Mother" and "Gay Father" categories (unlike the "Intact Biological Family" category) included children of adoptive parents, step-parents, single parents, and, notably, a large number of divorced parents.

The study, intentionally designed to compare apples and oranges, tells us nothing about the parenting skills of same-sex parents. Indeed, the huge majority of the children of parents who had a same-sex relationship at some time in their lives studied by Regnerus never actually lived in a same-sex headed household.

As I observed in June 2012 in a blog here, "this article, dressed up in the accoutrement of scholarship, was never intended to be real scholarship. It is, rather, just another desperate attempt to smear gay and lesbian parents and thereby provide a 'rational' justification to deny equal marriage rights."

Nevertheless, Regnerus achieved something of a breakthrough in his pseudo scholarship. He managed to place his work in a supposedly peer-reviewed journal.

But its publication set off a firestorm of criticism by scholars who became suspicious not only because of its funding sources but also because of its rushed publication in a journal of questionable scholarly integrity. In response to the outcry against the paper and its hurried publication, the journal appointed an auditor to evaluate the study and the review process it underwent.

The auditor appointed by Social Science Research, Dr. Darren E. Sherkat of Southern Illinois University, reported in July 2012 that he found disqualifying problems with the peer-review process used to evaluate Regnerus's paper. He found that "the peer-review process failed to identify significant, disqualifying problems" with the study. He also cited conflicts of interest among the reviewers, stated that "scholars who should have known better failed to recuse themselves from the review process," and criticized the author's use of scholarship to push a political agenda.

In an interview, Sherkat described the paper succinctly: "It's bullshit," he said.

Although Regnerus's study was immediately denounced by reputable sociologists and repudiated by the auditor of Social Science Research, it has nevertheless been embraced by the opponents of same-sex marriage and is prominently cited in legal briefs submitted to the Supreme Court by the defenders of Proposition 8 and the Defense of Marriage Act.

As the documents obtained by The American Independent confirm, that, rather than the advancement of knowledge, was its real purpose.

The documents also reveal that Regnerus has consistently lied about the participation of Witherspoon Institute officials in the study. Although Regnerus insisted that the funders had nothing to do with the design of the study or its outcome, the documents plainly indicate that that is far from the truth.

It is clear that Regnerus and his paymasters were less motivated by the search for truth than by a desire to disseminate propaganda. He is too knowledgeable a sociologist not to have been fully aware of the flaws in the study. His choices in constructing the study indicate an attempt to deliberately skew the results to verify the foreordained conclusion dictated by the Witherspoon Institute. This study was conducted in bad faith.

Regnerus should be disciplined by the University of Texas for his unethical behavior. Social Science Research should retract the article and editor James Wright should resign or be fired.

 
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