American College of Pediatricians Misuses Regnerus Study in Amicus Brief

07.26.2012, 9:00 AM

Just as many LGBT people and allies feared, Regnerus’ flawed study on parenting has just been misused in an Amicus Brief opposing equal rights for same-sex couples.

In California, Lambda Legal is representing a woman in a legal, same-sex marriage who was denied spousal benefits by her employer because of the federal Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA). The case is currently before the 9th Circuit, where more background and the relevant briefs and filings can be found.

The American College of Pediatricians is a socially-conservative group that has self-published a variety of position papers opposing “the promotion of homosexuality in schools,” touting the “considerable risks to children exposed to the homosexual lifestyle” in part because of an alleged increase risk of violence in same-sex households, and ironically, promoting the infliction of physical violence upon children for disciplinary purposes. The organization should not be confused with the American Academy of Pediatrics.

In their Amicus Brief to the 9th Circuit, the American College of Pediatricians breathlessly reports (PDF):

“The court below did not have at its disposal access to the most current research on child outcomes for children raised by same-sex couples [sic]. A brand new study in the peer-reviewed journal <i>Social Science Research</i> uses a large random national sample to assess these outcomes…. It looked at ‘social behaviors,health behaviors, and relationships’ comparing child outcomes (as reported by the adult children rather than by those who raised them)  among various groups including married biological parents (labeled as IBF for “intact biological family’) and children raised by same-sex couples [sic] (labeled LM for lesbian mothers [sic] and GF for gay fathers [sic]).”

The organization then goes on to report the negative outcomes of children, in their erroneous words, “raised by two women.” This reference is in service of their broader support of DOMA, and their argument that research shows that children raised by same-sex couples have “differences that do not bode well for children.”

As I have written before, and has been widely reported and acknowledged, Regnerus’ study is not not NOT about “same-sex parents” or “same-sex couples.” It is, in Regnerus’ own words, a study that compares:

“how the young-adult children of a parent who has had a same-sex romantic relationship fare on 40 different social, emotional, and relational outcome variables when compared with six other family-of-origin types.” [emphasis added]

Note the difference. A parent who has ever had a same-sex relationship is not necessarily a parent who is part of a same-sex couple or who raised a child with a same-sex partner. It is inaccurate, therefore, for the College of Pediatricians to claim that the study is looking at children “raised by same-sex couples.”

Unfortunately, Regnerus contributes to the confusion by, within the study, calling parents who have ever had a same-sex relationship while raising a child a “same-sex household,” and calling such parents, no matter their actual sexual orientation “lesbian mothers” and “gay fathers.” While he may not have been acting in bad faith, his inaccurate, imprecise, and- yes-  irresponsible labeling does lend itself quite easily to misuse and misinterpretation.

I know that some have argued that the best way to counter a flawed study is for a different study to come along and rebut it, but I hope people who argue that can understand how frustrating it is to have to sit tight and, in the meantime, monitor how political groups are mis-using this study. The Regnerus study is out there in the public forum now, and in a peer-reviewed journal. Groups, especially those with anti-equality agendas, are going to continue to cite it, misuse, and misinterpret it.

So, I’m left wondering, how many more of these posts am I, and other LGBT people and allies, going to have to write in clarification and rebuttal? Is it really my job, or the job of any other LGBT person, to make sure people are using studies fairly and honestly, or do researchers, organizations, adults in a purportedly civil society contributing to the public discourse have any ethical or moral responsibility to be fair and honest in their use of research?

In the past, researchers have spoken up instances of their research being misused and/or misinterpreted for political purposes.

In this case, would it be the responsible course of action for Regnerus to acknowledge and denounce this misuse/misinterpretation of his research, especially given its admitted flaws?

30 Responses to “American College of Pediatricians Misuses Regnerus Study in Amicus Brief”

  1. George says:

    Regnerus is not likely to denounce the “misuse” of his study. In fact, I suspect that he is well aware that this was the precise use for which the study was intended. The Witherspoon and Bradley Foundations paid $800,000 so that a peer-reviewed study could allegedly “prove” that gay people are bad parents and be cited in the legal documents. One can only hope that judges will realize that the study is bogus and proves nothing of the sort.

  2. annajcook says:

    I haven’t been able to access the full study yet, but I’m puzzled by the way the study was framed — even without misuse. The notion that “families in which one or more parents have had same-sex relationships at some point” constitute a “family type” is a little strange. What other “family types” were studied, and when taken as a group does it make sense to sort the families the way Regenerus did? It seems that such a category can have very little to say about the environment the child was raised in. In fact, the only thing I bet it could tell us is that the child knew the parent had a same-sex relationship (since the data was collected, as I understand it, from grown children’s self-reporting). I mean, I know my mother and father both had different-sex relationships (with one another), but I’m not sure that in and of itself had a very marked effect on my childhood?

  3. George says:

    annajcook, precisely because the way the study was framed is nonsensical, many suspect that it was done that way for nefarious purposes, i.e., to reach conclusions that appear to disparage gay parents. Regnerus is a competent sociologist; he knows that what the study really indicates is that family instability has negative effects on children. The problem with that conclusion is that that has been known for years and years and does not need to be proven once again. It would certainly not merit $800,000 in funding from right-wing foundations. Hence, it has been rigged to be able to be spun as though it does something that it manifestly does not do.

  4. StraightGrandmother says:

    Fannie- “So, I’m left wondering, how many more of these posts am I, and other LGBT people and allies, going to have to write in clarification and rebuttal?”

    StraightGrandmother- Infinitesimal rebuttals Fannie, literally uncountable. About three weeks ago I researched if this “study” was being reported around the world. It initially was reported on Catholic websites, and it transitioned from Catholic websites into the mainstream press. I watched that transition happen right before my eyes.

    And virtually every single article, I mean all of them, headlined with “Research from the University of Texas shows Homosexual Parents are Dangerous to Children” Prominently featured was a connection between homosexuality and pedophilia. I used Google translate to read the articles. I’ll list the countries I found this in, I quit looking after Peru having made the determination that this was now global, but especially alarming to me was that this we featured on 2 Extremist French Websites.

    Australia, France, Brazil, Italy (it was big in Italy), Canada, Spain, Peru.
    At the time it had not yet hit Africa and I didn’t look at Russia but by now I am sure it has. You can’t just think about how very damaging this is to sexual minorities in the United States, this is going to be devastating to sexual minorities in Africa and Russia.

    Just see these pictures of gay rights protestors in Russia getting attacked by Neo-Nazis this past may. These pictures are chilling. I saw video of this attack but can’t find it, it’s truly terrifying.

    The worst application of this deeply deeply flawed “research” I believe will happen in Africa, and it will be vicious, I mean vicious.

    in Africa right now where in over 70 Countries Homosexual Relations are a Crime,

    Headline to Article-
    US religious right presses anti-gay laws in Africa


    Based on the Regnerus Research, Bryan Fischer, Executive Director if the American Family Association broadcast on their radio station on Monday July 16, 2012 that Regnerus’ research justifies children who have a gay father or a lesbian mother be removed from that parent and custody give to anybody else but that parent, and any visits are supervised visits. He links gay parenting to pedophilia based on the Regnerus research. And after Fischer is done with his show on comes another radio program on their network and this research is talked about over and over and over throughout the day. And this is just ONE Faith Based Anti Gay organization, there are literally dozens. I am only showing you this one.

    Please keep in mind American Family association owns 180 Radio Stations in 28 States with 20 Million listeners per day and had 18 Million in revenue in 2011.

    DO WATCH THIS VIDEO and see how the Regnerus Research is being used in The United States-

    And this is just ONE anti-gay organization.

    So Fannie, Sexual Minorities and their Straight Supporters will never ever ever be able to keep up with correcting the record. I am convinced only 2 things could possibly mitigate in any significant way this damage, IF The Journal Social Science Research removed the paper and/or IF Dr. Regnerus was sanctioned by the University of Texas. And even then, the Funders of this research still won, they did. This will never ever be correct world wide. They accomplished what they set out to do.

  5. JeffreyRO5 says:

    Worse, this supposed medical group (I suspect these are a handful of physicians with a “Christian” worldview), when confronted with the flaws and falsehoods of the Regnerus study, shrugged and basically said, “oh well.”

    How marvelous that even religious doctors are not immune to lying and smearing others, if it serves their religio-political agenda. Only God knows why this is so important to them to make this kind of compromise to decency and integrity.

  6. fannie says:

    I notice that opponents of SSM have not commented on this post.

    A concession or acknowledgement that the organization I cite has engaged in wrongdoing, misuse, and/or misinterpretation with respect to this study, even if that may not have been their intent (to give them the benefit of the doubt), would go a long way here.

    Or, perhaps this reasoned post will be unfairly labeled an “attack” on the Academy of Pediatricians or Regnerus?

    All I seem to hear from opponents of SSM, not only on by some on this site but within the anti-SSM blogosphere, is how mean people are being to Regnerus and the people who promote this study and how LGBT people are crying “no fair” for no good reason at all.

    I mean…. everyone understands the criticism that I have rendered, right?

    I ask because there seems to be a real disconnect in the discourse among those who support and oppose SSM. Just like it’s incredibly difficult to get opponents of SSM to admit that anti-gay bigotry still exists (even among people who don’t belong to the Westboro Baptist Church), it’s been incredibly difficult to get opponents of SSM to acknowledge the flaws in the Regnerus study and to admit (let alone denounce!) the groups and people who are misusing the study.

  7. StraightGrandmother says:

    Fannie , “Just like it’s incredibly difficult to get opponents of SSM to admit that anti-gay bigotry still exists (even among people who don’t belong to the Westboro Baptist Church), it’s been incredibly difficult to get opponents of SSM to acknowledge the flaws in the Regnerus study and to admit (let alone denounce!) the groups and people who are misusing the study.”

    StraightGrandmother- Don’t hold your breath. The people who oppose Same Gender Civil Marriage will NEVER condemn this “study” nor the misapplication and misrepresentation of the “study”. Why Fannie why, when you can show it to their faces the defects, that this study is NOT about Mommy+Mommy or Daddy+Daddy because Regnerus NEVER found them, why will they simply stay silent? Because no matter what you or I PROVE, they believe it. It is confirmation of their bigotry and prejudice. Even if it is a 10% complete LIE, doesn’t matter. Some PhD said it and it confirms their beliefs so they will never ever open their hearts or minds. They just won’t. And THAT is why this “study” is so dangerous.

    I knew this from the first moment I heard about it on Sunday June 10th. I am the first and perhaps only person that Regnerus directly e-mailed.

    And when he e-mailed me that he only ever found TWO straight up Lesbians (and no gay dads) who raised a child for 18 years and in fact those kids turned out really well, when he e-mailed me that he did not find Mommy+Mommy or Daddy+Daddy I have worked tirelessly to expose the truth. I cannot even estimate the hours I have worked on this.

    It is true there is a circling of the wagons around Regnerus, and the reason is, deep down, deep deep down, they believe it. It doesn’t matter that it is all a lie, the truth doesn’t matter, they believe it. They WANT confirmation and through the scientific misconduct of Regnerus they got it.

  8. hermes12 says:

    What scientific misconduct? Just because you don’t like the outcome of the study it consitutes scientific misconduct? Regnerus was doing a random sample. He did that because he wanted to avoid “selection bias,” where the outcome of a study is pre-determined by the choice of participants, which is what happened in some of the earlier studies of lesbian parents.

    As he told you, in the random sample, he found only 2 lesbian couples who had been together a long time and raised children to adulthood. And apparently those children did fine. However, based on the random sampling, the vast majority of people with same-sex orientation who were involved in raising children were NOT raising them in the context of a stable, long-term same-sex relationship. So those 2 couples who were together a long time would be considered “statistically insignificant.”

    Two points:

    First, it is a truism that children do best when raised in stable homes. No one argues with this. Second, lesbian relationships, from what I understand from the studies I have read about, are, counter-intuitively the LEAST stable of all relationships (less stable than both heterosexual and gay male relationships). So it seems perfectly reasonable to me that he would find only two stable lesbian couples raising children. And that the remaining “lesbian-oriented” mothers he would find would be in unstable relationships.

    Remember also that lesbians are only about one half of one percent of the population (a much smaller proportion even than gay males). So it was difficult for him to pull very many of them in a random sampling. Certainly it is possible that if he could have had a much larger random sampling, he would have found more of these stable lesbian couples raising children. But what he did find with his sample was a lot of instability in lesbian relationships. Which is consistent with most data I have seen.

    So where is the scientific misconduct?

  9. JeffreyRO5 says:

    Straight, this study, and the anti-gays protectiveness of it, is part and parcel of the whole problem of the anti-gay marriage argument: it is inauthentic. It is a house of cards, with a structure that tries hard to mimic reality. We’re just at the latest stage of the facade: scientific studies that prove gays are lousy parents. As if parenting is indelibly linked to marriage, and groups are judged on their parenting abilities.

    This study was supposed to offset all the previous studies that said gay people can parent as well as straight people (as normal people would expect, but that drives homophobes crazy!). It is one more prop in the alternate reality of the anti-gays.

    I believe the Prop 8 trial was a huge wake up call for the anti-gays, and why they have systematically demonized the judicial system: it represents, and is, a reality-based world where outlandish claims or mere opinions are recognized as such. An academic study carries weight in the reality-based world, and the anti-gays know that at some point, it’s not enough to play to the faith-based and the homophobic.

    I am more convinced each day that this study was designed from the start to be the puzzle piece they think they needed: something “official” that says gays are hurting children. It wasn’t enough to merely state that gays are lousy parents (in the opinion of their children; Regnerus could have asked different questions, such as: did you parents read to you, did they encourage you, etc.); they need something edgier, that would resonate even with non-homophobes.

    Too many things are out of place here: the poorly designed study, the Regnerus article with its absurd conclusions, the failed peer-review process, the too quick response of the “Baylor 18″ who rushed to defend the study, the too quickly filed amicus brief, the bizarre ranting “defenses” of the study in various publications (that actually hurt rather than help Regnerus, in my opinion).

    After reading Maggie Gallagher’s NOM group strategy about pitting gays against blacks, and getting kids to rat out their gay parents, these people will stop at nothing to cultivate the homophobia that drives their followers to the voting booths.

  10. JeffreyRO5 says:

    Hermes, the scientific misconduct comes from the possibility that Regnerus conspired with his funders to reach a specific outcome. In addition, the University of Texas has a research policy that says you can’t do research designed to harm a particular group. If this had been a real study, that finding could be used to limit the legal rights of gay and lesbian people, in addition to defaming them.

    An inquiry is under way. Regnerus did a lot of dumb or questionable things if he was conducting a good faith study. It’s all been discussed and I don’t feel like repeating it here. I suspect the plan was to deal with the pushback from the Human Rights Campaign and a few minor blogsites, and then let the dust settle. I don’t think Regnerus was expecting to get nationwide criticism in mainstream media outlets. While the “Baylor 18″ letter was so quickly available almost speaks to it being written in advance, as part of the counteroffensive, they were unprepared to be outdone by a letter from 200 scholars, as well as all the major medical societies!

  11. Myca says:

    However, based on the random sampling, the vast majority of people with same-sex orientation who were involved in raising children were NOT raising them in the context of a stable, long-term same-sex relationship.

    No. That is absolutely not what the study said. It said nothing whatsoever about sexual orientation. Even Regnerus himself said that it said nothing about sexual orientation. Wrong, wrong, wrong, wrong, wrrong. A better-designed study might have made some reference to sexual orientation … but I doubt it would have reached the results this one did.


  12. hermes12 says:

    JeffreyRO5, thanks for your lucid and polite answer.

    But on what basis did you determine that Regnerus designed his study to reach a predetermined conclusion? Is it the fact that the study was funded by conservative foundations?

    Another point that is bothering me is that many people seem to be upset that Regnerus classified people who had any kind of same-sex romantic relationship as “gay.” Why is this wrong? If same sex attraction is fixed at birth (the “born that way” theory) it would seem that having any kind of sexual relationship with a member of the same sex would be an indication that a person is, in fact, gay.

  13. StraightGrandmother says:

    Hermes12 I would like to address your point of Regnerus labeling parents as gay or lesbian. First some background information, then I will show you why-

    Regnerus, [begin quote] We had only two cases in which mom and her partner were together for 18 years. We’ve got only six cases where mom and her partner were reported to have stayed together for 10 or more years, and 18 cases for five years. We’re still seriously in small-sample-size territory, prone to making what’s called a Type II error, meaning we could erroneously conclude that there are no differences when there really are. How about those 81 cases wherein respondents reported living with mom and her partner for at least a good share of a year or more?[end quote]

    2 -18 Years
    6 – 10 Years
    18 – 5 Years
    26 Long Time

    81 cases of living with mom and her partner a good share of a year or more. (short time)

    26 (long time)+81 (short time)= 107

    175 respondents
    175 – 107(Long and short time) = 68 (39%) who NEVER LIVED WITH THEIR MOTHER + THEIR MOTHERS GIRL FRIEND

    AND for my money I BET that the 81 he talks about above I BET included in that 81 is the 26 Long Time numbers. I think he was being sneaky by the way he wrote that. If I am right the number is higher than 39%

    Let me try and present this a different way. People who are NOT sexual minorities do not seem to be bothered much by Regnerus mislabeling the parents the sexual ORIENTATION Label as Lesbian or Gay. But people who ARE sexual minorities are bothered by it a lot. Let’s change it from sexual orientation to national origin.

    This would be the equivalent of studying people from the Congo and finding people who said they “thought” their parents were from the Congo and making conclusions about people from the Congo, when 39% of them were actually from Senegal. (39% never lived with their mother + mother’s girlfriend), 39% were from Senegal. Misstating, or I would say in Regnerus’ case he deliberately mislead, someones national origin is equivalent to misstating someones sexual orientation.

    Let’s take this scenario one step further, let’s say your latest and greatest research on Congolese people had great interest to our government for decisions in Foreign Aid since this is purported to be the BEST research EVER, the government would use this to grant an increase or decrease in Foreign Aid. Do you think the Congolese people would *not* protest loudly that in fact this latest and greatest research on the Congo has 39% Senegalese people in it? And suppose there was a finite amount of resources to be divided between Senegal and the Congo and the person who did the research was Senegalese and this report meant that Senegal would get more and the Congo would get less. Do you think official inquires would be demanded of the Senegalese researcher and the Senegal Government who funded the report?

    Maybe by switching out sexual orientation and seeing it as national origin will put the concept across.

  14. JeffreyRO5 says:

    Hermes, the study WAS funded by groups with a clear disdain for gay people and official policies against same-sex marriage.

    My belief that the Regnerus study was designed with an outcome in mind is based solely on circumstantial evidence, traced back to the Prop 8 trial, where David Blankenhorn’s testimony was dimissed for lack of expertise. I believe a light went off in the collective mind of the anti-gays: “we need something that is more than our opinions, we need something factual for the courts to latch onto in denying marriage rights to the gays.”

    A person who marries someone of the opposite sex but has a same-sex fling cannot be categorically described as gay. Such a person is more likely bisexual. Is a person in a long-term same-sex relationship who has a fling with a different-sex person straight? Regnerus made a huge strategic error in using “had a same-sex affair” as a a surrogate for “is gay.” Plus it relies on the perceived knowledge of the child, instead of actually asking the person whose sexual orientation you’re trying to determine.

  15. Schroeder says:

    I notice that opponents of SSM have not commented on this post.

    A concession or acknowledgement that the organization I cite has engaged in wrongdoing, misuse, and/or misinterpretation with respect to this study, even if that may not have been their intent (to give them the benefit of the doubt), would go a long way here.

    As someone who is “on the fence” about SSM, I’m not sure if I qualify as an “opponent of SSM.” That having been said, based on the quote you cite, the American College of Pediatricians is ridiculously and unacceptably misusing Professor Regnerus’s study. I’ve read the study, and it does not say anything at all about stable gay families or children raised by same-sex couples. In fact, if it says anything about gay couples raising children, it says that the children, at least in some cases, turn out well (based on the two stable lesbian families in the sample). I should add, though, that Professor Regnerus (and most of the SSM opponents I’ve discussed the study with) explicitly acknowledge all of this.

    I should also add, as someone on the fence, that the things that bring me closer to the SSM side are things like Jeffrey’s defending in a recent thread that Elizabeth’s position is rational (even though he believes it’s incorrect); or Barry’s arguing in a recent post that Dan Cathy has a right to free speech without being bullied by government officials (even though he disagrees with Cathy’s speech); or Fannie’s explicitly saying that she assumes Regnerus is acting in good faith (even though she thinks his study is deeply flawed). These things bring me closer to the SSM side; as does hearing the stories of people who are directly affected by laws against SSM.

    What does not bring me closer is ridiculous strawmen arguments, accusations of bad faith, condescending questions, overly aggressive arguments, unwillingness to concede even the smallest points, unwillingness to address legitimate concerns, or unwillingness to see your opponents arguments in the best possible light (admittedly, both sides do these things). It would be a whole lot easier to sort through these very complex and difficult issues if these sorts of things were eliminated from the conversation.

  16. George says:

    I think the Regnerus study is on the verge of being retracted by Social Science Research. An internal audit by the journal (apparently ordered by Elsevier Science) has found all sorts of inappropriate actions in regards to the peer-review process. The auditor says it should never have been accepted for publication.

    Here is a link about the audit in the Chronicle of Higher Education: here.

  17. George says:

    The auditor also had “harsh words for an accompanying paper in the same issue by Loren D. Marks, an associate professor of family, child, and consumer sciences at Louisiana State University at Baton Rouge. Marks wrote a review of papers that had been published on the children of same-sex parents, taking the authors of those papers to task for using “small convenience samples” that are not generalizable, among other failings.

    “Sherkat writes that the Marks paper is “a lowbrow meta-analysis of studies” that was “inappropriate for a journal that publishes original quantitative research.” Sherkat, in an interview, said that Marks didn’t perform a true meta-analysis of the studies and instead simply wrote summaries of the results.”

  18. fannie says:


    “Just because you don’t like the outcome of the study it consitutes scientific misconduct?”

    So no, then, you quite evidently do not understand the critique my post makes. Thanks for demonstrating that.

    How incredibly frustrating to repeatedly lay out a reasoned argument supporting the conclusion that this study doesn’t study same-sex couples (which Regnerus admits and has been pointed out all over the Internet), only to have opponents of SSM accuse us of dismissing it just because we don’t like its outcome.

    I have to ask, did you even read my post, hermes? Like, did you read what it said, and not what you think it said?

    If so, I encourage you try to do a more accurate job of summarizing my argument, and the arguments that others here are making, and responding to those. Because if you walk away thinking that my argument is that I don’t like the outcome therefore Regnerus engaged in scientific misconduct, I and others could make a solid argument that your reading comprehension skills are seriously lacking.


    Thank you for your reasoned response. I agree with much of what you say.

    With respect to those who assume bad faith, fail to concede even small points, create ridiculous straw arguments, and every other tactic you point out, I have to agree that those who use those methods are not effective when speaking to those who disagree with them and who might be trying to sway undecided parties.

    One can get away with those strategies only in forums of like-minded people who already believe that all gays are commie fascists or all opponents of SSM are awful bigots. It’s pretty easy to go to numerous blogs, that either support or oppose SSM, and find people whipping themselves up into frenzies about how MEAN and unfair THOSE OTHER PEOPLE who don’t agree are being to them at some other blog.

    I appreciate what this particular forum tries to do in striking a balance, however imperfectly, in allowing differing viewpoints while also not tolerating abuse.

    I think the more that one interacts with people on the other side, one begins to see more nuance, which is why I am much more hesitant than I was when I first start blogging about assuming that I know what anyone else’s intentions are. One also comes to realize which approaches to conversation polarize, which shut down debate, and which are more effective.

    I have seen several comments here accuse Regnerus of acting in bad faith, and I would guess that the people making that accusation really truly believe he’s acted in bad faith, perhaps because, to them, the flaws in his study are inexplicable as something a sincere, rational, fair, and careful scholar would have done. I can sympathize with that impulse to be like, “Why else would he have published this study, given its flaws, if not for bigotry or a political agenda?”

    Yet, we don’t know his motives. And, every time Regnerus is accused of bad faith or of being a bigot, the conversations move further away from the flaws in his study and more on Regnerus and people’s defenses of him. So much so that now I think many supporters of SSM are absolutely convinced that the study isn’t flawed, it’s just that gay people don’t like the outcome of the study so we’re “resorting” to attacking Regnerus (see also, hermes’ comment above).

    Even if one believes in their heart of hearts that either LGBT advocates or SSM opponents are a little or a lot evil, it seems that we all have to walk on eggshells a bit in mixed conversations, perhaps tempering our responses and giving people the benefit of the doubt, or else all hope for dialogue is lost.

  19. annajcook says:

    George: annajcook, precisely because the way the study was framed is nonsensical, many suspect that it was done that way for nefarious purposes, i.e., to reach conclusions that appear to disparage gay parents.

    Fannie: Yet, we don’t know his motives. And, every time Regnerus is accused of bad faith or of being a bigot, the conversations move further away from the flaws in his study and more on Regnerus and people’s defenses of him.

    I’d add to this that personally I find trying to understand why people hold views I disagree with much more intellectually interesting and politically productive than I do writing them off as lying bigots (however emotionally satisfying that can be in moments of pique). Is it incredibly frustrating to see a study done which uses what appear to me “nonsensical” categories for family type? Yes. But I’m actually am interested in the thought process behind organizing the world by these categories that do not seem meaningfully predictive to me. How does the world appear when that’s how you conceptualize it? Maybe it will help me understand why some folks find my life and choices so threatening when I actually find them incredibly conducive to my own and my family’s well-being.

    “They’re bigots” might be what it boils down to (or not, depending), but it’s not very useful in terms of what we do next. Because it doesn’t help us figure out how to move from bigotry to not-bigotry, from exclusion to inclusion, from marginalizing “tolerance” to radical welcome.

  20. hermes12 says:

    It seems to me that the point of the Regnerus study is that there are very few “stable gay families.” So few that the few that he found were statistically insignificant. If there is a point to take from the Regnerus study, it would not be that gays are, per se, bad parents. Simply that their relationships are so unstable they don’t have much of a chance to be good parents.

    As I pointed out before, this instability in gay relationships is supported by a number of studies of gay relationships, which show not only that lesbian relationships in particular are the least stable of all (studies of gay marriage in the netherlands and in scandinavia show break-up rates for lesbian relationships 2 or 3 times higher than those for straight couples and higher than gay male couples as well) but that lesbian relationships contain the highest levels of both emotional and physical abuse, with gay male relationships second and heterosexual relationships in third place. So if you look at the Regnerus study in the context of those other studies, what he found is quite consistent.

    Because there is support in other studies for what Regnerus found about the instability of gay relationships, I don’t understand why everyone is so upset. He didn’t find that gays were bad parents. He found that the people who had gay relationships tend to have unstable relationships. And if those people are bisexual, then they would be even more unstable. Bur he found that those gays who had stable gay relationships did a good job of parenting. But there were too few of them to be statistically insignificant. So what is all the fuss about?

    StraightGrandmother, your analysis of the Regnerus data splits hairs. And your analogy between sexual orientation and nationality is not convincing.

  21. George says:

    hermes, it is simply not true that there are very few stable gay and lesbian families. That statement is itself a defamation.

    It is amusing that you excuse a study that has just been repudiated by its publisher by saying Regnerus just could not find enough real gay and lesbian families to do it right because they just don’t exist and Elizabeth, on the other hand, worrying that there are so many potential gay families that they are all going to be using ART (as though that were a bad thing).

  22. annajcook says:

    Simply that their relationships are so unstable they don’t have much of a chance to be good parents.

    Or that queer folks (or children of queer folks) comfortable with their non-straight sexuality and in queer families would be reluctant to participate in a study by someone whose funding sources they felt were questionable. Not to mention his previous research which, while possibly less shoddily-designed, was not particularly confidence inducing (at least I didn’t appreciate the theoretical lens he used in Premarital Sex in America).

    A researcher can be rigorous in meeting professional standards no matter their political views of institutional ties, but those politics or ties may effect who is willing to be part of their research study pool.

  23. JeffreyRO5 says:

    “Yet, we don’t know his motives. And, every time Regnerus is accused of bad faith or of being a bigot, the conversations move further away from the flaws in his study and more on Regnerus and people’s defenses of him.”

    That’s not true. He acknowledged in his article that his motivation to conduct a study was that he questioned the validity of all previous studies that found that gay parents parents as well as straight parents. Yet that is the non-judgmental “null” hypothesis; it’s what you’d expect, given that there’s no particular reason to belief one’s sexual orientation would in any way affect one’s ability to parent.

    I read that to mean that Mr. Regnerus has such strong anti-gay (at least when it comes to parenting) beliefs that 60 studies that validate a theoretical presumption of equivalence aren’t convincing enough. What other conclusion is possible?

    If you have no symptoms of illness, and 60 doctors tell you there’s nothing wrong with you, yet you insist on getting one more doctor’s opinion, are you really concerned about being ill or is there something else going on?

  24. JHW says:

    Hermes: It would be helpful, when people comment on the stability of same-sex relationships, for them to actually be familiar with evidence beyond that repeatedly endlessly by conservative organizations opposed to same-sex marriage.

    1. It’s not true that married same-sex couples in the Netherlands have a higher divorce rate than married different-sex couples. The study sometimes claimed to be about “gay marriage” in “Scandinavia” is actually about same-sex registered partnerships in Norway and Sweden, and only makes a comparison of dissolution rates between Swedish registered partnerships and Swedish (different-sex) marriages. Data from other countries fails to show the same result as Sweden; even the data from Norway in the very same study shows a much lower dissolution rate for Norwegian same-sex registered partnerships. The general story is that same-sex couples in formal legal relationships have similar or lower divorce/dissolution rates to different-sex married couples. See here for a discussion in the US context, pp. 18-19.

    2. It’s true that studies looking at same-sex cohabitation, without formal recognition, tend to find a higher break-up rate than among different-sex marriages, and sometimes than among different-sex cohabitants. But disentangling what this means is quite difficult. Same-sex couples have a much lower rate of child-rearing than different-sex couples, which influences relationship stability. (Note how problematic this makes your inference from this data to the Regnerus study’s story.) Also, they tend to have less social support and, until recently, legal recognition, which also has an impact. And, even leaving all that to the side, this measure is highly imperfect: it’s sensitive to many things that could lead to more short-term cohabitating relationships without suggesting that long-term same-sex cohabitating relationships are impossible or even particularly rare.

    3. Gays and lesbians are perfectly capable of forming long-term same-sex relationships, and in fact many gays and lesbians are in such relationships; see, e.g., here, pp. 584-585. Philip Blumstein and Pepper Schwartz, writing a few decades ago when there was no formal recognition anywhere for same-sex couples, found that long-term (10+ years) same-sex relationships had roughly the same dissolution rate as long-term different-sex marriages; the discussion is in their book American Couples.

    4. I’d be surprised if you were able to substantiate your claims about the rate of abuse among same-sex relationships, at least with rigorous studies with control groups that actually measure the right things. The evidence here is complicated and often quite inconsistent. A good treatment would note that (a) many LGB people, particularly LB women, have suffered abuse at the hands of different-sex partners (something that ought to be noted in the context of the Regnerus study), and indeed bisexuals tend to report the highest lifetime rates of abuse of all, and (b) while gay men tend to report rates higher than straight men, the rate for them tends to be more or less comparable to the rate among straight women.

  25. StraightGrandmother says:

    hermes, “studies of gay marriage in the netherlands and in scandinavia show break-up rates for lesbian relationships 2 or 3 times higher than those for straight couples and higher than gay male couples as well”

    Str8Grandmother- So you read the Gunar Andersson research? Allow me to share the first six words of the study
    “1.Registered partnerships: A new family type. ”
    Hermes12 do you think that registered partnerships are the equivalent of the Institution of Marriage?

    Futhermore should we grant or deny Civil Rights to all members of a group if a lot of members of the group act badly. For example, the highest divorce rate is among Evangelical Christians. Shall we use the instability of Evangelical Christians as a valid reason to deny all Evangelical Christians the Constitutional Right to a Civil Marriage? We know Evangelical Christians have high rates of divorce, therefore children born into these relationships, statistically will experience high levels of instability. Therefore in order to protect the as yet unborn children we should ban all Evangelical Christians from Civil Marriage?

  26. annajcook says:

    @hermes, in addition to my earlier response I want to point out that your suggestion that being bisexual makes it more difficult to form stable relationships is a stereotype of bisexuality that rests on a misconception of what bisexuality is.

    I am bisexual, in that I am sexually attracted to both male and female-identified folks. That basically just expanded the pool of potential partners for me, before I entered a committed relationship with a woman (also bisexual in terms of potential attractions) whom I am now engaged to. We are monogamous. Neither of us feel the need to incorporate a person or persons with male bodies into our relationship in order to be sexually or emotionally satisfied.

    There is nothing inherent about being capable of desire for different types of bodies that makes it difficult to choose a particular person to build your life with. After all, a straight-identified man may be attracted to multiple women over his lifetime, yet still choose to establish a family with only one of those women. A bisexual man or woman is no different.

  27. StraightGrandmother says:

    Schroeder maybe instead of thinking of the issue macro, why don’t you try looking at the issue micro. Here is my example- one lesbian couple. Think of just this one couple and ask yourself if society is harmed by this couple getting married.

    Salle Ride died this week of pancreatic cancer which she had for a year and a half. The first American woman in space is survived by her female partner of 27 years, Tam. At the time of Sally’s death it was illegal for her to marry her partner in California. Would it have hurt anybody if Sally Ride was allowed to marry her partner? Try to think of just this one couple and ask yourself, is it right or is it wrong that those two women should NOT be able to marry. 27 years together and during the time she was ill she could not legally marry her partner in California.

    Tam will not receive surviving spouse benefits as all the surviving spouses of heterosexual astronauts will. Would Sally Ride and Tam’s marriage have hurt anybody or society? Would it have? Perhaps thinking of same gender civil marriage in micro will be of help to you.

  28. David says:

    Via the Chronicle of Higher Education, “Controversial Gay-Parenting Study Is Severely Flawed, Journal’s Audit Finds.”

  29. Chris says:


    It seems to me that the point of the Regnerus study is that there are very few “stable gay families.” So few that the few that he found were statistically insignificant. If there is a point to take from the Regnerus study, it would not be that gays are, per se, bad parents. Simply that their relationships are so unstable they don’t have much of a chance to be good parents.

    This is a ridiculous conclusion to take from the Regnerus study, because, for the millionth time, it did not study “gay families.” The study asked people if either one of their parents had ever had a same-sex relationship during their childhood. Of course most of the people who answered yes came from straight, two-parent households–meaning that whatever same-sex relationship their parent had must have been either a) an extramarital affair or b) occurring after the parents divorced. Or both. That’s where the instability comes from in almost every case Regnerus studied–not from gay couples raising children together.

    If Regnerus had asked, “Were you raised by a same-sex couple?” and found few stable families, then your conclusion would be a reasonable one to draw. (It would also be a way better and more illuminating study.) But to conclude that Regnerus just couldn’t find any stable same-sex families is ridiculous. He didn’t look for same-sex families. He looked for people who already had children with an opposite sex partner, and who at some point in their child’s first 18 years, had a same-sex relationship that the child was aware of. Can you see how that question is set up in such a way as to skew toward instability?

  30. George says:

    Here is a link to a blog at in which Claude Summers discusses the repudiation of the Regnerus study by Social Science Research: Parenting Study Repudiated.