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More Dubious Research from the Institute for American Values
Posted by: Claude J. Summers on 11/01/11
Last updated on: 11/02/11
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David Blankenhorn. Still from a YouTube fundraising video for the Institute for American Values.

David Blankenhorn's Institute for American Values has issued a highly dubious report entitled One Parent or Five? A Global Look at Today's New Intentional Families. The report by "principal investigator" Elizabeth Marquardt relies more on hearsay than on any recognizable social sciences methodology, and is more revealing of the Institute's anti-gay agenda and its rejection of novel family configurations than anything else.

Blankenhorn and the Institute for American Values gained prominence in glbtq circles because of Blankenhorn's activism against marriage equality and his appearance as the star witness for the proponents of California's Proposition 8 at the Perry v. Scharzenegger trial, which resulted in federal Judge Vaughn Walker's declaration that Proposition 8 is unconstitutional.

During the trial, Blankenhorn's claim to be a nationally recognized expert on marriage was thoroughly discredited. It was revealed that he has no Ph.D. in a relevant field and has published only a single peer-reviewed scholarly article, and that article had nothing to do with marriage.

Moreover, under cross-examination the tongue-tied witness could not explain the social sciences methodology he used to reach his conclusion that same-sex marriage would contribute to the "deinstitutionalization" of marriage itself.

Not surprisingly, Judge Walker flatly denied any credence to Blankenhorn as an "expert witness," declaring his testimony as "inadmissible opinion . . . that should be given essentially no weight." He remarked that "None of Blankenhorn's opinions is reliable" or supported by evidence or methodology.

The same may be said of Elizabeth Marquardt's opinions in One Parent or Five: A Global Look at Today's New Intentional Families. Although Marquardt also bills herself as a "family scholar" and an expert on marriage, her credentials are as sparse as Blankenhorn's. On her website, she says she "holds a Master's in Divinity and an M.A. in international relations from the University of Chicago, and a B.A. in history and women's studies from Wake Forest University."

Although the report claims to offer "the first-ever systematic critique of the concept of intentional parenthood," it is neither systematic nor scholarly. Marquardt's social sciences methodology is as untrustworthy as Blankenhorn's. Like him, she just reads a lot and likes what she likes and dislikes what she dislikes.

As Professor Eric Blyth notes in BioNews, Marquardt's sources are "an eclectic mix of newspapers, TV reality shows, online chatrooms, Wikipedia, and a lunchtime conversation between the report's author and a friend--with no attempt to indicate on what basis these sources were either selected or evaluated. Inexplicably, and troublingly, given the claims made, the report makes virtually no reference to studies published in peer-reviewed journals concerning families built as a result of reproductive technologies. Beyond unsubstantiated assertion, there is no evidence of the report's 'social scientific' credentials."

One Parent or Five is simply a not-so-subtle attempt to raise doubts about and discredit "intentional families," those intentionally formed by single mothers, same-sex parents, and others who use unconventional parenting units or artificial reproductive technologies.

Serious scholarship on unconventional families and on the consequences of reproductive decisions is much needed. But such scholarship has to be approached free of prejudice. It is not likely to come from the Institute for American Values, which is funded by right-wing foundations.

Marquardt's report is not a serious contribution to the studies of families. Neither peer-reviewed nor rigorous even in its pretense at scholarship, it simply recites a litany of reservations about parenting outside of the traditional male-female married couple who rear their own biological children.

Marquardt attempts to counter or qualify the scholarly studies that have repeatedly shown that gay men and lesbians make very good parents. This debunking project will be convincing only to those who have reached such conclusions without looking at the evidence and who are as uninformed as she about social sciences methodology.

No reputable scholar takes the productions of the Institute for American Values seriously. That is why Marquardt and Blankenhorn frequently whine at their FamilyScholars.org blog that their work is dismissed because it is not peer reviewed.

But of course the real target for the junk science that Marquardt and Blankenhorn churn out at the Institute for American Values is not the scholarly community but naive readers who want some quasi-respectable justification for their reservations about marriage equality and gay and lesbian parenting.

This junk science also serves the purpose of providing other producers of junk science something to quote and cite as they also participate in the game of producing a facsimile of scholarship. It will no doubt soon be quoted with approval on the National Organization for Marriage blog and the North American Reparative Therapy website and cited by the "experts" at such designated hate groups as the American Family Association, Focus on the Family, and Family Research Council.

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