Gay Adoption | Gay Marriage | Mark Regnerus | Michigan | News

As Mark Regnerus Takes Stand in MI Gay Marriage Case, U-Texas Calls His Study 'Fundamentally Flawed'

Mark Regnerus, the UT researcher, whose rightwing-funded, biased parenting studies have been thoroughly discredited and debunked, took the stand yesterday for the defendants in the trial challenging Michigan's ban on gay marriage and gay adoption.

The AP reports: Regnerus

“We aren’t anywhere near saying there’s conclusive evidence” that children with same-sex parents grow up with no differences when compared to kids with heterosexual parents, he said.

“Until we get more evidence, we should be skeptical. … It’s prudent for the state to retain its definition of marriage to one man, one woman,” said Regnerus, who believes that’s the best scenario for kids.

He’ll be cross-examined Tuesday.

But even as he took the stand, the Sociology Department at the University of Texas, where Regnerus is employed, blasted his work as "fundamentally flawed" and distanced themselves from Regnerus' toxic views, issuing this statement:

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 Sociology Department resides in the College of Liberal Arts, which has issued a statement regarding Dr. Regnerus.
 
The Sociology Department has no affiliation with the Austin Institute for the Study of Family and Culture.

Defendants' testimony in the Michigan trial had a rough start already yesterday after a judge barred the state's first witness from the stand, saying Sherif Girgis had nothing to offer:

“He’s very eloquent … but right now, all he is offering to us is mainly his opinions,” U.S. District Judge Bernard Friedman said of the witness. “The court does not believe ... that he should be allowed to testify.”

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Comments

  1. The vast majority of same-sex couples who get married will never have children. There has never has been a requirement for marriage to result in offspring (despite a satirical effort in Washington State in 2007), nor has the ability or inability to procreate ever been a factor in determining who can get married.

    It seems to me that the proper course would have been for the judge to disallow any discussion regarding children, stating truthfully that such testimony is irrelevant to the matter at hand.

    Posted by: Gregory In Seattle | Mar 4, 2014 10:19:56 AM


  2. Why does the University of Texas employ this thing?

    He brings the university into disrepute with his fake and false 'research'.

    In order to protect its reputation the U of T needs to sack him.

    Posted by: MaryM | Mar 4, 2014 10:25:11 AM


  3. It would seem the University would take action against a student who produces an obviously slanted and intentionally flawed study.

    Posted by: Michael | Mar 4, 2014 10:28:12 AM


  4. Greg, the case originally started as a challenge to Michigan's ban on adoption by same-sex couples. It was only after the judge's prompting that they added a challenge to the same-sex marriage ban. So, no, discussions regarding children is not irrelevant.

    Posted by: John | Mar 4, 2014 10:28:56 AM


  5. @Gregory, one of the issues of this trial is the ban on gay adoption so yes, talking about children is very central to the case!

    And I think common sense will prevail here and the band on gay marriage and adoption in Michigan will be overturned.

    Posted by: SpaceCadet | Mar 4, 2014 10:32:01 AM


  6. I'm glad he's taking the stand because he will be skewered in the cross examination. Below is a letter from a number of sociologists to Social Science History, the journal that accepted the study, indicating a number of areas where academic misconduct most likely occurred:

    Letter to the editor:

    We write to raise serious concerns about the most recent issue of Social Science Research and the set of papers focused on parenting by lesbians and gay men. In this regard, we have particular concern about Mark Regnerus’ paper entitled “How different are the adult children of parents who have same-sex relationships? Findings from the New Family Structures Study.”

    LGBT parenting is a highly politicized topic. While the presence of a vibrant and controversial public debate should in no way censor scholarship, it should compel the academy to hold scholarship around that topic to our most rigorous standards. We are very concerned that these standards were not upheld in this issue or with this paper, given the apparently expedited process of publication and the decision to publish commentaries on the paper by scholars who were directly involved with the study and have limited experience in LGBT parenting research. As researchers with extensive experience in quantitative and qualitative research in family structures and child outcomes, we also have serious concerns about the scholarly merit of this paper.

    In this letter, we detail the specific concerns that lead us to request that you publicly disclose the reasons for both the expedited peer review process of this clearly controversial paper and the choice of commentators invited to submit critiques. We further request that you invite scholars with specific expertise in LGBT parenting issues to submit a detailed critique of the paper and accompanying commentaries for publication in the next issue of the journal.

    We question the process by which this paper was submitted, reviewed, and accepted for publication. The paper was received by the journal on February 1, 2012. A revision was received on February 29, and the paper was accepted on March 12. This suggests that the peer review process and substantive revisions occurred within a period of just five weeks. According to the peer review policy of the Social Science Research website hosted by Elsevier, the first step of the review process is an initial manuscript evaluation by the editor. Once deemed to meet minimum criteria, at least 2 experts are secured for a peer review. The website states that, “Typically manuscripts are reviewed within 2-3 months of submission but substantially longer review times are not uncommon” and that “Revised manuscripts are usually returned to the initial referees upon receipt.” Clearly, Dr. Regnerus’ paper was returned to him very quickly, because he had time to revise the manuscript and get it back to the journal by February 29th. Further, it appears that a second substantive peer review may not have occurred as the paper was accepted just two weeks after the revision was submitted.

    The five-week submission to acceptance length was much shorter than all of the other articles published in the July 2012 issue. The average period of review for papers published in this issue was more than a year and the median review time was more than ten months. As we note below, there are substantial concerns about the merits of this paper, and these concerns should have been identified through a thorough and rigorous peer review process.

    We further question the selection of commenters for the Regnerus paper. While Cynthia Osborne and Paul Amato are certainly well-respected scholars, they are also both active participants in the Regnerus study. According to her curriculum vitae, Dr. Osborne is a Co-Principal Investigator of the New Family Structure Survey. Dr. Amato served as a paid consultant on the advisory group convened to provide insights into study design and methods. Perhaps more importantly, neither Osborne nor Amato have ever published work that considers LGBT family or parenting issues. A cursory examination of this body of literature would reveal a wide range of scholars who are much more qualified to evaluate the merits of this study and were neither directly involved in the study design nor compensated for that involvement.

    We have substantial concerns about the merits of this paper and question whether it actually uses methods and instruments that answer the research questions posed in the paper. The author claims that the purpose of the analysis is to begin to address the question, “Do the children of gay and lesbian parents look comparable to those of their heterosexual counterparts?” (p. 755). He creates several categories of “family type”, including “lesbian mother” and “gay father” as well as “divorced late,” “stepfamily,” and “single-parent.” But, as the author notes, for those respondents who indicated that a parent had a “same-sex relationship,” these categories were collapsed to boost sample size:
    That is, a small minority of respondents might fit more than one group. I have, however, forced their mutual exclusivity here for analytic purposes. For example, a respondent whose mother had a same-sex relationship might also qualify in Group 5 or Group 7, but in this case my analytical interest is in maximizing the sample size of Groups 2 and 3 so the respondent would be placed in Group 2 (LMs). Since Group 3 (GFs) is the smallest and most difficult to locate randomly in the population, its composition trumped that of others, even LMs. (There were 12 cases of respondents who reported both a mother and a father having a same-sex relationship; all are analyzed here as GFs, after ancillary analyses revealed comparable exposure to both their mother and father).

    By doing this, the author is unable to distinguish between the impact of having a parent who has had a continuous same-sex relationship from the impact of having same-sex parents who broke-up from the impact of living in a same-sex stepfamily from the impact of living with a single parent who may have dated a same-sex partner; each of these groups are included in a single “lesbian mother” or “gay father” group depending on the gender of the parent who had a same-sex relationship. Specifically, this paper fails to distinguish family structure and family instability. Thus, it fails to distinguish, for children whose parents ever had a same-sex relationship experience, the associations due to family structure from the associations due to family stability. However, he does attempt to distinguish family structure from family instability for the children of different-sex parents by identifying children who lived in an intact biological family. To make a group equivalent to the group he labels as having “lesbian” or “gay” parents, the author should have grouped all other respondents together and included those who lived in an intact biological family with those who ever experienced divorce, or whose parents ever had a different-sex romantic relationship. That seems absurd to family structure researchers, yet that type of grouping is exactly what he did with his “lesbian mother” and “gay father” groups.

    It should be noted that the analyses also fail to distinguish family structure from family stability for single mothers; this group included both continuously single mothers and those single mothers who had previously experienced a divorce.
    The paper employs an unusual method to measure the sexual orientation of the respondents’ parents. Even if the analyses had distinguished family stability from family structure, this paper and its accompanying study could not actually directly examine the impact of having a gay or lesbian parent on child outcomes because the interpretation of the measurement of parental sexual orientation is unclear. The author acknowledges as much when he states:
    It is, however, very possible that the same-sex romantic relationships about which the respondents report were not framed by those respondents as indicating their own (or their parent’s own) understanding of their parent as gay or lesbian or bisexual in sexual orientation. Indeed, this is more a study of the children of parents who have had (and in some cases, are still in) same-sex relationships than it is one of children whose parents have self-identified or are ‘‘out’’ as gay or lesbian or bisexual. (p. 758)

    Respondents were asked whether their parents had ever had a same-sex relationship. The author then identifies mothers and fathers as “lesbian” or “gay” without any substantiation of parental sexual orientation either by respondents or their parents. Given the author’s stated caveats, it is both inappropriate and factually incorrect for him to refer to these parents as “gay” or “lesbian” throughout the paper.

    We are very concerned about the academic integrity of the peer review process for this paper as well as its intellectual merit. We question the decision of Social Science Research to publish the paper, and particularly, to publish it without an extensive, rigorous peer review process and commentary from scholars with explicit expertise on LGBT family research. The methodologies used in this paper and the interpretation of the findings are inappropriate. The publication of this paper and the accompanying commentary calls the editorial process at Social Science Research, a well-regarded, highly cited social science journal (ranking in the top 15% of sociology journals by ISI), into serious question. We urge you to publicly disclose the reasons for both the expedited peer review process of this clearly controversial paper and the choice of commentators invited to submit critiques. We further request that you invite scholars with specific expertise in LGBT parenting issues to submit a detailed critique of the paper and accompanying commentaries for publication in the next issue of the journal.

    Posted by: Tarun | Mar 4, 2014 10:32:54 AM


  7. In academic terms, it really does not get much worse than this statement from the university. Universities have generally respected academic freedom - the right to explore any topic or question in one's research - to the extent they would not reprimand Regnerus unless actual ethical violations (like bribing the journal to publish were alleged) were involved. And right now the only thing anyone can accuse Regnerus of is poor quality in his "research."

    So this statement is about as strong a repudiation as any you could hope for.

    Posted by: CPT_Doom | Mar 4, 2014 10:41:23 AM


  8. In other words, they think Regnerus is an idiot.

    Posted by: Jack M | Mar 4, 2014 10:41:54 AM


  9. You can follow his cross examination here. Still going on.

    https://twitter.com/langeamyFOX2

    Posted by: AKChris | Mar 4, 2014 11:38:26 AM


  10. Ah, got it now. I've been so wrapped up following other marriage cases that I forgot this one started out *not* as a marriage case.

    Posted by: Gregory In Seattle | Mar 4, 2014 11:47:33 AM


  11. The University of Texas said the following:

    "Dr. Regnerus’ opinions . . . do not reflect the views of the Sociology Department of The University of Texas at Austin . . . Nor 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 . . ."

    "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 . . ."

    So answer me this: Why does the University of Texas at Austin continue to employ Dr. Regnerus when he neither measure up to the academic standards of his sociology department, and his work is viewed as deeply flawed by the American Sociology Association?

    Not all universities, particularly state schools offer tenureship, but even those who do could take a quack like him to court to have him dismissed.

    Or they could cut all his classes back, and publicly before the faculty and the student body, openly and consistently debunk him.



    Posted by: Ricco | Mar 4, 2014 12:09:29 PM


  12. Why would the court entertain childcare as a reason for enforcing "traditional" marriage? It can't be a fatal flaw for gay marriage unless the state also disallows divorce and other disruptive influences on children.

    Posted by: anon | Mar 4, 2014 12:10:31 PM


  13. Hello! Again, the trial is also about gay adoption! Read the article!

    Posted by: SpaceCadet | Mar 4, 2014 12:33:58 PM


  14. Well, I'm glad they finally made a statement. It should have happened long before this.

    Posted by: Daniel | Mar 4, 2014 12:49:33 PM


  15. they claim that gay people should be barred from marrying because they cannot have children. then, at the same time they claim that gay people should be barred from marrying because their children are disadvantaged.

    Posted by: Dana | Mar 4, 2014 1:19:04 PM


  16. A portion of the residents of Michigan deserve 2nd class citizenship because ... "THE CHILDREN!"

    It's interesting that the privilege of heterosexual marriage isn't revoked when they prove to be unfit parents, if the argument is REALLY about these fictitious children.

    Posted by: Hey Darlin' | Mar 4, 2014 2:08:05 PM


  17. @Ricco : usually someone won't get fired for one study that turned out to have some issues if all the other ones were good.

    Regnerus would have received far less criticism if he had replaced "gay and lesbian parents" with what he actually measured: "people with closeted LGBT parents who were inadvertently outed when their spouses found out what those 'business trips' actually were." Meanwhile the closeted LGBT parents who were married to someone of the opposite sex and either stayed faithful or were more discrete got lumped into the 'straight' category.

    It's conceivable that children would do worse on the average with a parent cheating on his/her spouse if the cheating parent was a gay or lesbian parent: given the higher level of prejudice 30 to 40 years ago, discovering a cheating parent might have been more likely to lead to a divorce if the cheating was not heterosexual. If so, it would indicate yet another way that homophobia harms children.

    Regnerus' idea (of looking at how adults are doing and seeing if there is any correlation with the sorts of family situations those adults grew up in when they were children) at least has the advantage that you are actually measuring outcomes: The catch is that the result of those family situations can depend on the culture in which they are embedded and that is changing rapidly regarding sexual orientation.

    Posted by: Bill | Mar 4, 2014 4:20:15 PM


  18. @Bill,
    Regeneres' so-called "study" does not measure ANYTHING scientifically -- not even what you are suggesting.
    He eliminated obviously-problematic couples from what he CALLED heterosexual parents and he liberally included problematic couples in what he labeled "gay fathers" and "lesbian mothers" ( none of whom were necessarily even gay!)

    To give two hypothetical examples that would fit into his double-standard categories:

    (A) Imagine a man who is straight is divorced from a woman who is straight. Both were abusive to the children and cheated with 12 different opposite-sex partners each. THIS COUPLE IS THE TYPE THAT WOULD BE DISQUALIFIED FROM BEING IN THE "HETERO" SAMPLE.

    (B) A straight man is divorced from a straight woman. Again, both were abusive to the kids. The man had 12 affairs with women and the woman had 11 longer-term affair with men plus a weekend fling once with a woman 20 years ago (which wasn't her "cup of tea.") THEIR KIDS ARE LABELED BY REGENERES AS "CHILDREN OF LESBIAN MOTHERS" (Remember, the mother is NOT gay and the similarly-situated problem couple in "A" was eliminated from the study because he can't find any "gay" ingredient in their story and he doesn't want any problematic couples in his "hetero" sample.)


    This is NOT science of any sort.

    A person could categorize ANY groupings of parents in this way (eliminating problematic types from only one category) and obviously always come to the same result. White patents are worse than black ones, or black ones are worse than white ones or tall parents are worse than short ones. The difference is that with any other group, he would have been laughed out of academia and somebody at thst journal would have been fired for printing such nonsensical and non-scientific propaganda.

    Posted by: GregV | Mar 4, 2014 8:48:17 PM


  19. @GregV: he collected data, and claimed to have intentions of making that data available (don't know if he did at this point). If so, you can try to do a better analysis.

    How he categorized people in his analysis is independent of what he measured - what is in the raw data.

    If you read what I wrote carefully (obviously you did not) it was in fact critical of his analysis. But that doesn't make the raw data useless, nor does it discredit the idea of looking how children raised in various sort so families turned out when they became adults, as long as you also account for conditions at the time.

    Posted by: Bill | Mar 4, 2014 10:11:39 PM


  20. @GregV : one thing I should have added.

    You gave an example "(B) A straight man is divorced from a straight woman. Again, both were abusive to the kids. The man had 12 affairs with women and the woman had 11 longer-term affair with men plus a weekend fling once with a woman 20 years ago (which wasn't her 'cup of tea.')"

    Just out of curiosity, what is your estimate of the total number of such couples in the U.S. with either of the two even remembering that 20 year old fling, much less telling their offspring about it? If you actually read his study (you can find it at http://www.markregnerus.com/uploads/4/0/6/5/4065759/regnerus_july_2012_ssr.pdf ) you'll see that he (via an intermediary) interviewed the children of these parents. Do you really think the woman in your example would mention that hypothetical 20-year-old same-sex fling to her offspring, even after they became adults?

    There's a lot of vitriol being directed towards Regnerus. I don't particularly care for him either, but I won't exaggerate in an attempt to discredit him.

    Posted by: Bill | Mar 5, 2014 11:30:17 PM


  21. There is no vitriol involved in stating the fact that the Regnerus paper was only published through editor James Wright's deliberate and knowing violations of science publishing ethics.

    Regnerus is a religious anti-gay bigot who is attempting to influence law makers to discriminate against gay people.

    There is no such thing as "too much vitriol" that could be directed against this monster lying bigot.

    Posted by: Scott Rose | Mar 12, 2014 8:24:13 PM


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