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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."

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  1. This really is not that big, people will take what they want and other studies will work against it. All relationships and families are based on the people in it. Not studies

    Posted by: GeorgeM | Jun 12, 2012 12:41:24 PM

  2. The reason this crap was published in Slate and not a legitimate peer reviewed medical journal is because it's procedures couldn't have passed the rigorous control requirements of a legitimate study. Slate is an open forum where just about anything can and does get printed with nothing more than a glance by their editorial staff (who are not sociologists nor qualified to peer review such material).

    Posted by: Robert In WeHo | Jun 12, 2012 12:47:48 PM

  3. And let's all try to remember that the folks who will "believe" this study are the same braindead plebes who ignore any and EVERY piece of information that leads toward the theory of evolution....

    Posted by: LittleKiwi | Jun 12, 2012 12:51:41 PM

  4. See the blog by Claude Summers at

    Summers calls this study "pseudo scholarship" and links it with the junk science being commissioned and funded by right-wing foundations.

    Posted by: Jay | Jun 12, 2012 1:08:55 PM

  5. @Anon
    It didn't even look at unmarried gay couples. It looked at mixed-orientation marriages. Seemingly straight relationships where one partner isn't straight. And it didn't even distinguish between couples that broke up due to one of them being gay and couples where one or both partners are bisexual. Merely having a same-sex relationship in the past makes you a "gay parent" in the study.

    Posted by: Steve | Jun 12, 2012 2:29:54 PM

  6. Another instance of wealthy Republicans cynically using their money to sway poor, uneducated Republicans. The goal seems to have been to design a study to reach a particular conclusion, but with enough of a scientific patina that it can be presented as science by NOM, Fox News, and right-wing congressional candidates.

    Posted by: jimstoic | Jun 12, 2012 2:47:45 PM

  7. According to Rick, only biological families matter, so all adoption agencies and foster homes should be shut down. Let all those children grow up without parents.

    Posted by: za | Jun 12, 2012 3:22:05 PM

  8. I read Slate frequently and never thought it to be biased or have a negative LGBT view, but at least they posted a critique here:

    Posted by: beef and fur | Jun 12, 2012 3:41:47 PM

  9. Here is the way to politically slam it in NOM's pig-face:

    The NOM MORMON CATHOLICS all scream that Gays don't need marriage because THEY CAN ALREADY GET MARRIED - to an OPPOSITE SEX PARTNER.

    Well, according to this study...NO THEY CAN'T. Not without irrepreble harm done to All Parties Involved, including the children

    In fact(!) when there are two loving same sex parents, especially Lesbian parents, Children of SSM flourish BETTER than their counterparts.

    All NOM MORMON CATHOLICS have done is prove us right and give us a study to tear apart one of their favorite canards.

    So pass the meme and disable their ridiculous arguement about gays already being able to get married.

    One more thing: RICK, there are so many flaws in your Pro-NOM argument that you could enter it into a swiss cheese contest.

    You, sir, are the Chief Moron on this site. Now tell us all how that must feel.

    Posted by: Mic | Jun 12, 2012 5:12:32 PM

  10. "According to Rick, only biological families matter, so all adoption agencies and foster homes should be shut down. Let all those children grow up without parents"

    I did not say or imply anything of the sort.

    I will not, however, apologize for saying that I am glad I was raised by my biological father and mother and would have felt a little cheated if I had not been. And I think most kids feel that way, whether they are raised by a single parent or live with a step-parent rather than their real parent or are adopted by a couple who are not their biological parents, regardless of sexual orientation.

    If that were not the case, then you would not see so many people seeking out their biological parents when they find out they are adopted, even if they are adults when they find out and even if they were totally happy with their adoptive parents.

    It is not a reflection on the suitability or lack thereof of non-biological parents--who often do a wonderful and sometimes downright heroic job (and deserve accolades for it), but simply a reflection of the intense and unshakeable natural bond between an individual and the two people who created him or her.

    That's just human nature and there is no point in trying to fight it.

    Posted by: Rick | Jun 12, 2012 5:44:24 PM

  11. A study for the parakeet cage.

    Posted by: tropicbill | Jun 12, 2012 7:01:08 PM

  12. But you fight it on-line "Rick" -- becuase it's painfully obvious that you are a woman.

    Posted by: David Ehrenstein | Jun 12, 2012 7:11:44 PM

  13. Time and time again we get people insisting that gay couples will make lousy parents when the world seems to point, irrevocably, to the reality that heterosexuality or "different sex" alone doesn't not a great parenting couple make.

    Posted by: Tyler | Jun 12, 2012 7:23:30 PM

  14. Rick, I hear you. And the "best" heterosexual parents amongst the pool might be the ones where the father is 5'11" and the mother is 5'7" and height-weight proportionate, it logically follows.
    Consider this seriously, though: Those gays and lesbians (I am not among them) who so strongly desire children as to circumvent 'nature' to produce them may very well likely prove, as the years roll on, to be "more suitable" parents on average than most straight parents who just ditch the birth control for a minute.
    That possibility holds as much water as your ideas, no?

    Posted by: shane | Jun 12, 2012 9:52:08 PM

  15. A study on the effects of infidelity on families does not a study on the effects of gay parenting make, necessarily. What a tool.

    Posted by: calilac | Jun 12, 2012 10:19:49 PM

  16. "First of all, gay relationships DO tend to be less stable than married straight relationships,"

    Yes, and likewise, hetero relationships on the whole DO tend to be less stable than married, GAY relationships.

    You see Rick, you're using flawed logic very similar to what such flawed so-called "studies" use.

    I could do a "study" using the same kind of methodology that the Family Research Council is so fond of using (I wouldn't do so only because I have too much integrity to use bogus methodologies, while they obviously don't) to prove that gay couples last longer than straight couples.

    In my "study," married same-sex couples would be compared to anyone who has EVER had any kind of opposite-sex relationship (whether a one-night stand, a prom-date or a till-death marriage).

    The average heterosexuals has dozens of "relationships" (or what I would call "relationships" in my "study," if I include everything that lasts as short as one date.
    And obviously the gay relationship longevity would be longer than straight longevity in my "study."

    Ridiculous? Yes, of course. But it is EXACTLY the type of flawed methodology that fails peer review and yet is repeatedly trotted out by the anti-gay groups.

    Posted by: GregV | Jun 12, 2012 11:33:47 PM

  17. These are the most dangerous right-wing twerps and hucksters. Smart enough to game their entry into "real" academia instead of the circus of Bible College degree mills. Obviously the study is incredibly flawed. One politically incorrect elephant in the room that I'm going to dare bring up is the heritability of homosexuality; obviously the parents were coming out in a hostile world, but if a greater # of their kids were dealing with still being closeted, that could also explain some of the survey results. The end of the survey period was in the 1990s, when, with no states allowing gay marriage, it's safe to assume the social stigma was much greater than now. Also, it's reasonable to assume that those who "became" gay and lesbian parents in the way the paper describes (basically, being outed by themselves or others) were especially closeted in the first place - in fact they might have had kids thinking it would "cure" them - and that this degree of being closeted might reveal a heritable tendency towards depression or mental instability.

    In my experience with the people I know, there is clearly some degree of heritability, especially on the mother's side which would imply there is an X-linked genotype that at least predisposes sons to homosexuality.

    As I've said before, we're going to see an unprecedented summer as the Reich Wing does everything they can to close the barn door after the animals have left, so to speak. Fomenting anti-gay hysteria is probably on right-wing "think tanks" top 5 dirty tricks of this election cycle...especially since Obama was brave enough to express his candid opinion on the matter.

    Posted by: St. Theresa of Avila | Jun 12, 2012 11:55:43 PM

  18. Right on schedule, the Washington Times (which is controled by the Moonies cult and not to be confused with the Washington Post) has published an article pretending that this proves things that it does not, complete with a chart entitled Two Moms vs. A Mom and Dad.
    And the right-wingers' comments below the article, just as predictably complain that the liberals will not believe the wonderful results of the (ahem) "study" just because it's not "politically correct."

    Posted by: GregV | Jun 13, 2012 1:34:59 AM


    Posted by: Angela | Jun 13, 2012 2:00:20 AM

  20. DAVID EHRENSTEIN - Rick is a woman...painfully obvious? That's pretty painful, but it's not obvious. How?

    Posted by: UFFDA | Jun 13, 2012 2:22:13 AM

  21. It is amazing how quickly I break my personal vow to not enter the fray.

    But SERIOUSLY! This study is so flawed! For all the reasons mentioned in the posts, and the comments.

    And I'll be an un-surveyed, annectdotal outlier. Four siblings. All straight. And my long-term relationship with my partner outlasts any one of their multiple marriages.

    So F you study, but more importantly, F you forever, RICK. AKA, Pitiful Creature of Darkness.

    Posted by: TJ | Jun 13, 2012 2:37:33 AM

  22. "Yes, and likewise, hetero relationships on the whole DO tend to be less stable than married, GAY relationships"

    Same-sex marriage has not even been around long enough to make that judgment. Moreover, most of the gay couples (or individuals) who have adopted children are not married.

    It would be interesting to see whether, over the long run, a) gay marriages last as long as straight marriages, on average, and whether 50% or more of gay marriages last "forever", and b) whether gay couples who adopt children, whether married or not, are as likely to stay together long term as straight couples with children.

    My guess would be no on both counts and by a wide margin, but I guess we will see over time.

    Posted by: Rick | Jun 13, 2012 10:25:16 AM

  23. @UFFDA I am not a woman. Ehrenstein, like Little Kiwi, as you know, lives in another universe, one of his own making.

    Posted by: Rick | Jun 13, 2012 10:26:32 AM

  24. When laws change to give same-sex parents the full benefits and protections automatically granted to opposite-sex parents and then, in the long term, studies look at the children who are a product of those families, then there can be a meaningful conclusion. This study is meaningless because it has nothing to do with most current same-sex couple headed households, ones that thrive in equality states like my own. Most states don't allow for married same-sex couples to head households, and no state allows same-sex couples with federal recognition to head households.

    Any predictions about the ability of same-sex couples to stay married in the long term are pulled out of a$$es at this point, so it's pointless even to make predictions other than to reveal your personal ability to couple or parent as an openly gay person. And those who aren't cut out for it clearly should stay single.

    Posted by: Ernie | Jun 13, 2012 11:09:56 AM

  25. Rick
    Why do you think No?

    Posted by: GeorgeM | Jun 13, 2012 12:23:08 PM

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