LGBT Groups Condemn ‘Flawed, Misleading, and Scientifically Unsound’ Paper on Gay Parenting

Calling it a "flawed, misleading, and scientifically unsound paper that seeks to disparage lesbian and gay parents," GLAAD, HRC, The Family Equality Council and Freedom to Marry yesterday condemned a parenting study trumpeted by its author Mark Regnerus (pictured) yesterday in Slate which on its face appears to overturn three decades of research into families with same-sex parents. The story was picked up widely in media.

RegnerusThe study is being lauded, of course, by right-wing groups like NOM.

Writes Regnerus in Slate on the 'New Family Structures Study':

Instead of relying on small samples, or the challenges of discerning sexual orientation of household residents using census data, my colleagues and I randomly screened over 15,000 Americans aged 18-39 and asked them if their biological mother or father ever had a romantic relationship with a member of the same sex. I realize that one same-sex relationship does not a lesbian make, necessarily. But our research team was less concerned with the complicated politics of sexual identity than with same-sex behavior.

The basic results call into question simplistic notions of “no differences,” at least with the generation that is out of the house. On 25 of 40 different outcomes evaluated, the children of women who’ve had same-sex relationships fare quite differently than those in stable, biologically-intact mom-and-pop families, displaying numbers more comparable to those from heterosexual stepfamilies and single parents. Even after including controls for age, race, gender, and things like being bullied as a youth, or the gay-friendliness of the state in which they live, such respondents were more apt to report being unemployed, less healthy, more depressed, more likely to have cheated on a spouse or partner, smoke more pot, had trouble with the law, report more male and female sex partners, more sexual victimization, and were more likely to reflect negatively on their childhood family life, among other things. Why such dramatic differences? I can only speculate, since the data are not poised to pinpoint causes.'

A critical look at the article, also in Slate, by William Saletan, makes this note:

Regnerus calculates that only one-sixth to one-quarter of kids in the LM sample—and less than 1 percent of kids in the GF sample—were planned and raised by an already-established gay parent or couple. In Slate, he writes that GF kids “seldom reported living with their father for very long, and never with his partner for more than three years.” Similarly, “less than 2 percent” of LM kids “reported living with their mother and her partner for all 18 years of their childhood.”

In short, these people aren’t the products of same-sex households. They’re the products of broken homes. And the closer you look, the weirder the sample gets. Of the 73 respondents Regnerus classified as GF, 12—one of every six—“reported both a mother and a father having a same-sex relationship.” Were these mom-and-dad couples bisexual swingers? Were they closet cases who covered for each other? If their kids, 20 to 40 years later, are struggling, does that reflect poorly on gay parents? Or does it reflect poorly on the era of fake heterosexual marriages?

And John Corvino in The New Republic points out why Regnerus gets everything wrong.

Question: What do the following all have in common?

A heterosexually married female prostitute who on rare occasion services women;
A long-term gay couple who adopt special-needs children;
A never-married straight male prison inmate who sometimes seeks sexual release with other male inmates;
A woman who comes out of the closet, divorces her husband, and has a same-sex relationship at age 55, after her children are grown;
Ted Haggard, the disgraced evangelical pastor who was caught having drug fueled-trysts with a male prostitute over a period of several years;
A lesbian who conceives via donor insemination and raises several children with her long-term female partner;

Give up? The answer—assuming that they all have biological or adopted adult children between the ages of 18 and 39—is that they would all be counted as “Lesbian Mothers” or “Gay Fathers” in Mark Regnerus’s new study, “How different are the adult children of parents who have same-sex relationships? Findings from the New Family Structures Study” (NFSS).

The LGBT groups answer back:

Key problems with the “New Family Structures Study” include:

The paper is fundamentally flawed and intentionally misleading. It doesn’t even measure what it claims to be measuring. Most of the children examined in the paper were not being raised by parents in a committed same-sex relationship—whereas the other children in the study were being raised in two-parent homes with straight parents.

Given its fundamental flaws and ideological agenda, it’s not surprising that the paper doesn’t match the 30 years of solid scientific research on gay and lesbian parents and families. That research has been reviewed by child welfare organizations like the Child Welfare League of America, the National Adoption Center, the National Association of Social Workers and others whose only priority is the health and welfare of children and that research has led them to strongly support adoption by lesbian and gay parents.

In addition, the paper’s flaws highlight the disconnect between its claims about gay parents and the lived experiences of 2 million children in this country being raised by LGBT parents.  Americans know that their LGBT friends, family members and neighbors are wonderful parents and are providing loving and happy homes to children.

The paper fails to consider the impact of family arrangement or family transitions on children, invalidating any attempt on its part to assess the impact of sexual orientation on parenting.  The paper inappropriately compares children raised by two heterosexual parents for 18 years with children who experience family transitions – like foster care – or who live with single or divorced parents, or in blended families. Moreover, the limited number of respondents arbitrarily classified as having a gay or lesbian parent are combined regardless of their experiences of family instability.

And where did this study come from?

Regnerus is well known for his ultra-conservative ideology and the paper was funded by the Witherspoon Institute and the Bradley Foundation – two groups commonly known for their support of conservative causes. The Witherspoon Institute also has ties to the Family Research Council, the National Organization for Marriage, and ultra-conservative Catholic groups like Opus Dei.

Said Human Rights Campaign President Chad Griffin: “Because of the serious flaws, this so-called study doesn’t match 30 years of scientific research that shows overwhelmingly that children raised by parents who are LGBT do equally as well as their counterparts raised by heterosexual parents.”

Added: GLAAD President Herndon Graddick: "A growing majority of Americans today already realize the harms this kind of junk science inflicts on loving families. If the media decides that this paper is worth covering, journalists have a responsibility to inform their audiences about the serious and glaring flaws in its methodology, and about the biased views of its author and funders."