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Topics In the News
 
University of Texas Sociology Department Blasts Regnerus
Posted by: Claude J. Summers on 03/04/14
Last updated on: 03/04/14
 
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Mark Regnerus.

On March 3, 2014, as sociologist Mark Regnerus began testifying in the Michigan marriage trial, DeBoer v. Snyder, the University of Texas Department of Sociology, where Regnerus is an Associate Professor, issued a statement that both distances itself from Regnerus and points out that his fraudulent study has been denounced as fundamentally flawed by the American Sociological Association.

The statement, issued by Christine L. Williams, Chair of the Department of Sociology at the University of Texas, reads as follows.

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.

The Sociology Department at The University of Texas at Austin aspires to achieve academic excellence in research, teaching, and public service at the highest level in our discipline. We strive to do so in a context that is based on the highest ethical standards of our discipline and in a context that actively promotes and supports diversity among our faculty and student populations.

The statement effectively distances a reputable department from the unethical and fraudulent study published by Regnerus in June 2012 in Social Science Research, "How Different Are the Adult Children of Parents Who Have Same-sex Relationships? Findings from the New Families Structure Study." The study 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.

The 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 concluded 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.

Critics immediately pointed out that Regnerus does not compare "same-sex families" and "opposite-sex families." Rather, 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.

Documents obtained through the Freedom of Information Act recently confirmed long-held suspicions that the study 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.

As it turned out, the study had little influence on the Supreme Court majority in the landmark decision Windsor v. U.S., which declared the Defense of Marriage Act unconstitutional. However, it has been cited repeatedly by anti-gay activists both in the United States and abroad, including Russia, where it has been used as evidence for the legislation that criminalized "homosexual propaganda" and banned the adoption of Russian children by same-sex couples and individuals living in countries with marriage equality. It was even was used to support proposed legislation that would allow the Russian state to remove children from glbtq parents.

On March 3, 2014, Regnerus began testifying in the Michigan trial, which involves a lesbian couple, Jayne and April DeBoer-Rowse, who seek the right to marry and to adopt jointly their three children. In his initial testimony, Regnerus rehearsed his fraudulent study.

On March 4, he will face cross-examination by the plaintiffs' attorneys. They are likely to ask uncomfortable questions about the study and its reception by reputable organizations, including the American Sociological Association.

The statement from the University of Texas Department of Sociology regarding Mark Regnerus may be found here.

In the video below, John Corvino debunks the Regnerus study.

 
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