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Judge Orders Documents Related to Anti-Gay, Discredited Mark Regnerus Parenting Study Exposed

In June, University of Texas professor Mark Regnerus published what LGBT groups called, in a mass statement, a "flawed, misleading, and scientifically unsound paper that seeks to disparage lesbian and gay parents". The study on its face appeared to overturn three decades of research into families with same-sex parents and has been cited again and again by hateful right-wing groups despite the fact that the claims contained in it have been thoroughly debunked.

RegnerusToday in Florida, a judge ordered documents relating to how that paper got published in the journal it did, and background on its funding, HRC reports:

Almost from the moment it was released, the 2012 New Family Structures Study raised red flags among family scholars for its results that suggest that children are less likely to thrive when raised by gay and lesbian parents than if raised by straight parents. The study is a clear outlier among 30 years’ worth of social science that suggest that children thrive equally well in two parent households, regardless of the genders of their parents. It was soon revealed that Regnerus’s study utterly failed to control for error. The study’s so-called “straight” households featured heterosexual parents in committed, long-term relationships, whereas the so-called “gay” households failed to feature same-sex couples in comparable relationships.

In today’s opinion, Orange County Circuit Judge Donald Grincewicz ruled that emails and documents possessed by University of Central Florida (UCF) related to the flawed study’s peer-review process must be turned over to John Becker, who sought the documents under Florida’s Public Records Act. UCF houses the journal Social Science Research, which published the Regnerus study, and the editor of the journal, UCF Professor James Wright, led the peer-review process for the research. Becker is represented by the Law Office of Andrea Flynn Mogensen, P.A., and Barrett, Chapman & Ruta, P.A; and the Human Rights Campaign Foundation funded the litigation.

“There has always been a dark cloud over the Regnerus study, yet this debunked study is now being touted by anti-LGBT organizations around the country and around the globe,” said Ellen Kahn, M.S.S, of the Human Rights Campaign. “Sunlight is the best disinfectant, and the public has a right to know how junk science gets published in a scholarly journal.”

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  1. Yeah, I'm really curious to see who funded this and who did the so-called "peer review." Interesting they had to go to court to get that info-- I'd think a respectable researcher and a credible journal would have been happy to make that information available in the first place.

    Posted by: bobbyjoe | Nov 12, 2013 7:51:53 PM

  2. In general, I try not to wish other people ill. But in this case, I hope both Regnerus and Wright (the editor of the journal) lose their jobs.

    Posted by: kit | Nov 12, 2013 7:55:55 PM

  3. James Wright's email address and contact #

    Posted by: AlrightYouGotMe | Nov 12, 2013 8:01:46 PM

  4. Finally. Thank you Ellen Kahn/Human Rights Campaign.
    This is the most often cited 'study' in Russia for defaming LGBT.

    Posted by: SERIOUSLY | Nov 12, 2013 8:12:15 PM

  5. I am really happy to see how HRC is changing under its new executive Chad Griffin. In previous years, it was notoriously ineffective and seemed mostly interested in perpetuating itself and paying its officers. Under Griffin, HRC has been deploying its money effectively and aggressively. In this case HRC was on the ball, recognized the potential harm that this fraudulent study can do, and made the right call to fund this litigation to obtain internal documents. Good for HRC and keep it up!

    Meanwhile the organization that is the least effective and does virtually nothing of value is the so-called Task Force or NGLTF. Maybe Griffin can take a night job and fix that place too.

    Posted by: Sami | Nov 12, 2013 8:47:36 PM

  6. Guys, what Mark Regnerus actually did was to interview adults who had both gay and straight parents, and then evaluated how well these adults were doing. He got unusual results because he was looking into the past - the adults in his study were roughly between the ages of 20 and 40, so they grew up before adoptions by same-sex couples were allowed, and before we had civil unions, much less same-sex marriages. So the cases in which one parent was gay usually ended up being either a one-parent household or one with (for example) a gay man married to a straight woman. What his data probably shows is that the anti-gay discrimination that went on 20 to 40 years ago was bad for everyone, including children.

    In my opinion the worst flaw in his paper was the failure to mention that he did not mention that conditions were changing with time. If you combine his study with the others that show same-sex parents are just fine, the obvious conclusion is that children are harmed when their parents are discriminated against and when social pressures result in gay men marrying straight women, creating marriages that are likely to fail.

    While his definition of families in which there are LGBT parents is an odd one, that definition is clearly stated. It won't mislead other researchers although that detail can easily be missed by the general public, particularly when something is quoted out of context.

    Posted by: Bill | Nov 12, 2013 8:51:45 PM

  7. Best factoid of the case is that the defense gave a thumb drive containing 50,000 records to the plaintiff, but the university sued to get them back ex post facto via an Emergency Motion to Compel Return of Inadvertent Production.

    The bigger question is why are private for profit companies, like Elsevier, allowed to control scientific information produced with public funds?

    Posted by: Marco Lue | Nov 12, 2013 8:54:39 PM

  8. Agree that HRC finally is getting its act together - this was a good investment. Those emails from Wright are going to be very revealing and potentially extrememly embarrasing. I've already read the judges order, who has read all the emails, and his order gives the impression that Wright made some incriminating comments in his emails about his graduate TAs :)

    As for the NGLTF, put that dinosaur out of its misery. All is does is host that uselss Creating Change conference every year which accomplishes nothing but allows a bunch of extreme lefties to bask in their self-righteousness. If we had followed their advice over the years, we would be nowhere. They akways believed that we had to downplay our demands for civil rights and instead form a coalition with feminists and anti-racists for "social justice" Sounds great but the Rainbow Coalition was tried int he 80s and failed miserably. They also were the main group who opposed marriage rights because they thought it was patriarchal and too assimilationist. Yuck.

    Posted by: etseq | Nov 12, 2013 8:59:40 PM

  9. The results of Regnerus' study may be partially due to the retrospective nature of the study and changing times, but this is not the real reason his study says zero about children raised by same sex couples.

    Certainly retrospective studies can be flawed, and changing times can influence overall results. But Regnerus did not study how children of gay parents turn out because his "gay parents" did not actually have to raise the children he studied. Nor did these "parents" have to be gay, but could have just experimented briefly with a same sex partner.

    The first group he studied included almost exclusively children whose parents separated, and one parent was in a same sex relationship at any time, no matter how brief, during the child’s rearing. It did not distinguish as to which parent actually raised the child. The second group included only children raised by opposite sex parents that stayed together. Not surprisingly, the children from stable relationships did better.
    The national organization for sociologists like Mr. Regnerus is the American Sociological Association. In a brief to the Supreme Court in favor of same sex marriage they write that the Regnerus study “did not specifically examine children raised by same-sex parents, and provides no support for the conclusions that same-sex parents are inferior parents or that the children of same-sex parents experience worse outcomes.” “If any conclusion can be reached from Regnerus’ study, it is that family stability is predictive of child wellbeing.” They also write “Scholarly consensus is clear: children of same sex-parents fare just as well as children of opposite-sex parents.” (

    The eagerness of opponents of same sex marriage to embrace this study is just another example of their willingness to lie and cheat if needed to get their way. Funny, I don't recall lying and cheating to be part of the values of any religion.....

    Posted by: Steve | Nov 12, 2013 9:28:07 PM

  10. I'm not exactly sure where Bill is betting his information but the reports I read about the study stated they were comparing long-term stable heterosexual households to families that fall apart due to one spouse, for example, cheating on another and if that spouse had just one same-sex encounter they were labeled gay.

    Posted by: Michael | Nov 12, 2013 10:04:03 PM

  11. @Michael: I got it by reading the study, not what others said about it.

    He had a technical definition of LGBT or whatever the terminology was (saw it some time ago). Researchers are used to looking for things like that and will be careful to note them to determine what is actually being measured. They'll treat such terminology as simply a short-hand label and not get confused. Many journalists, politicians, and people with an agenda, of course, will get confused based on their biases.

    Instead of reading reports about it, you should read the original material. You'll find that the ages of the people he interviewed were such that he was looking at what happened in the past. Subtract 30 years from today, and you are back in the early 1980s. He was looking into the past, to a time when discrimination was far worse than today, but probably didn't realize it.

    I'd ding Regnerus for not realizing that the results were time varying for the LGBT group but not (or at least not nearly so much) for the straight group. I'd predict that, if you repeated his study 40 years after same-sex marriage is accepted nationally, the results would show little or no difference (possibly a slight difference as there could still be pockets of fundamentalism messing up people's lives).

    Posted by: Bill | Nov 12, 2013 10:25:55 PM

  12. One thing I should have added: Regnerus had next to zero same-sex couples in stable relationships in his study because 30 years ago (corresponding to roughly the middle of the ages of the people he interviewed) same-sex couples raising children were rare. After a divorce or separation, a judge was far more likely to leave a child in the hands of an unemployed, slightly alcoholic mother than with two gays in a stable relationship with high incomes who would be excellent parents.

    Posted by: Bill | Nov 12, 2013 10:34:31 PM

  13. Regeneres did NOT study people raised by gay vs. straight parents. He also did NOT study kids raised by ssme-sex vs. opposite-sex couples.

    In fact, he admitted, when pressed, to having included only two people he knew of (among 15,000!) from his surveys who grew up with a same-sex couple.
    He removed ALL divorced, separated and single parents from what he CALLED the "heterosexual" group and included broken families and single parents only in what he sloppily labeled as "gay" parents (even though he not only did NOT establish that any of them were gay, but also -- again ONLY with that group -- did not established that the parent he called "gay" lived with or raised the kids.

    Obviously, you could regroup ANY kind of people (ANY racial group, or tall people or left-handed people, etc., etc) to "prove" the same hypothesis by using the same kind of misleading labeling criteria and including broken families ONLY in the group you are being paid to attack with the "study.")

    White people , for example, would turn out to be to be "inferior" parents if your criteria for calling someone "Kids of Black Parents" is a yes answer to "Did you think your mother ever had sex with a dark-skinned person" and you remove all single, divorced or separated parents from the "Black" group, while generously INCLUDING them in the group your funders like better.

    The so-called study is in the typical, purposely-misleading style of every such "study" commissioned by anti-gay groups.

    What is also disturbing is that so much of the public (perhaps especially those who got an "education" from a religious "college") defend this pile of crap and seem so incapable of recognizing the very obvious errors (and to even call thrm "errors," as if they weren't on purpose to fool people, is really too generous.)

    Posted by: GregV | Nov 12, 2013 10:37:28 PM

  14. The Christianists have found a way to kill two birds with one stone with this fraud of a "study". First, they try to use it to attack human rights around the planet, and second they use it to discredit science (which they hate) itself.

    Never, ever, ever trust a Christianist on the smallest of matters, they always have a hidden agenda.

    Posted by: Nick | Nov 12, 2013 10:48:29 PM

  15. "He was looking into the past, to a time when discrimination was far worse than today, but probably didn't realize it."

    Bill, you're giving the man the benefit of the doubt when it is clear the study was manufactured with a goal in mind. Having been trashed in the Prop 8 case for having no science to back their positions, the anti-gay side went out and designed a "study" to get a result. They knew it was a sham, that the sample size couldn't possibly result in valid science. They rushed it through, and they've been using it in case after case, here and abroad. Regenerus himself persists in misrepresenting his results in speeches to the public.

    Posted by: BobN | Nov 12, 2013 11:28:39 PM

  16. Sign and share the petition at this link telling American Sociological Association authorities to hold #Regnerus accountable for ASA Code of Ethics violations:

    Posted by: Scott Rose | Nov 13, 2013 12:31:37 AM

  17. Bill, in his comments above, is not accurately communicating the known facts related to Regnerus's booby-trapped-in-advance paper. Here is a fact about the Regnerus data; NOBODY can be sure that any of Regnerus's survey respondents had a gay parent. Full stop.

    Posted by: Scott Rose | Nov 13, 2013 12:49:01 AM

  18. Interesting comments about HRC and NGLTF. Where is there more info? Links?

    Posted by: emjayay | Nov 13, 2013 1:16:51 AM

  19. All that money the phobes spent buying academic whore Regnerus and his pseudo-study got them nothing except defeat in SCOTUS and state after state achieving marriage equality. Looks like the old strategy of defaming gay folk just doesn't work any more. You wonder who these hate-peddling clowns think is still listening to them.

    Posted by: Jim | Nov 13, 2013 1:23:33 AM

  20. @BobN: what I said hardly gave him "the benefit of the doubt": among his peers - people at universities doing research - that sort of mistake on his part (ignoring variations with time) should really be embarrassing for him. How he grouped people into categories, however, was quite clear in his paper. You might not like the labels he used for each one, but it simply would not confuse anyone doing research in that area.

    @Scott Rose - I accurate stated what was going on, as it would be understood by someone doing research in that area. It was very clear in his paper that a "gay parent" included one who did not raise the child. If you want to claim that none of them had a parent that is gay, you have to assume that all of the ones who did were lying and there is simply no reason for them to do that. All the data he collected shows is that, if you create an oppressive environment where gays feel compelled to marry women to keep up appearances, the higher likelihood of a failed marriage is going to be bad for the children, and about as bad as a marriage that fails for other reasons.

    I do think political types are misrepresenting Regnerus' results, and that his analysis is lacking, mainly because he made no statement to the effect that the results are not applicable today due to changing attitudes towards gays.

    Posted by: Bill | Nov 13, 2013 2:15:04 AM

  21. Bill, Regnerus's survey instrument does not make it possible for anybody to know with certainty whether *any* of Regnerus's survey respondents had a gay parent. The issue is not -- as you have fatuously claimed -- whether any of them "lied" on the survey -- the issue is that Regnerus posed no questions that allow anybody to know with certainty whether any of the respondents had a gay parent. Also, there is not enough in the data to determine whether any of the respondents' opposite gender parents broke off their relationship or divorced because one came out as gay. You are speculating about the data, in ways that the data do not permit anybody to conclude anything with certainty.

    Posted by: Scott Rose | Nov 13, 2013 2:23:29 AM

  22. @Bill: I've also read the paper (a while ago) and there's more to this controversy than systematic bias from the fact that his sample reflects societal attitudes from another time. The peer review process for this study was suspicious. The reviewers were not selected from among authors who had publications dealing with LGBT families, as would usually be the case. Instead, some of the reviewers had direct financial ties to the same conservative foundations as Regnerus. The paper also sailed thru peer review in the ridiculously short time of six weeks, when the average period for this journal is over a year. After the controversy broke the journal engaged an outside auditor who concluded that the peer review process was deeply flawed, and that the study was a piece of garbage that never should have been published.

    The emails should be interesting. Investigating the peer review process is right on target.

    I also echo the comments about HRC and NGLTF. Once upon a time HRC (then HRCF) was derisively known as the Human Rights Champaigne Fund. Not anymore - Griffin has really revived that organization, and thank god he has.
    I didn't even realize NGLTF still existed.

    Posted by: BZ | Nov 13, 2013 3:28:34 AM

  23. Does anyone know what the outcomes were for the 2 respondents who were actually raised by 2 gay parents? Obviously, data from 2 respondents would not be adequate to draw any conclusions, but I'd be interested to know how those 2 fared.

    Posted by: elle | Nov 13, 2013 3:30:29 AM

  24. There is at least one challenge on same sex marriage bans coming up (Michigan) where witnesses will be called. Being this is the antis main talking point one hopes they call Regnerus as a witness for cross examination. Could be very interesting. If they don't call him as a witness it very much reduces their ability to cite the study. Should be v interesting to say the least. The more that can be got onto the record about the peer review and loose connections of this paper the better.

    Posted by: Craig Nelson | Nov 13, 2013 4:26:51 AM

  25. As others have said, the study--with its dubious funding--didn't look at gay parenting at all (except in the misleading way he defined it) and certainly didn't look at how children intentionally brought into families headed by stable same-sex couples fared as compared to their heterosexual counterparts. (Such studies have shown that children of same-sex parents do just as well.) Any notion that he wasn't aware he was looking into the past and how that--along with the bogus gay-parenting criteria--tipped the results is absurd. The study was set up to achieve its results.

    The real danger of a study like this is not in the U.S., where the fraud is being exposed and where Courts are unlikely to fall for the shenanigans, but overseas, where it is being used as anti-gay propaganda in places where neither the media nor the general public has the wherewithal to dissect it. (It falls to one or two rational people, who then face character assassinations.) It's part of a pattern of using disgraced American homophobes (some barely known in the States yet touted as famous "experts") to add so-called legitimacy to efforts to deprive gay people and gay families of basic rights. The study sails right over to the homophobic countries while most of the information about its illegitimacy stays back in the U.S.

    Posted by: Ernie | Nov 13, 2013 4:44:13 AM

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