In July Mark Regnerus, a sociology professor at the University of Texas-Austin released a study that claimed the adult children of gays and lesbians were more likely to get involved with drugs, get divorced and be depressed than grown kids raised in heterosexual families.
In “The New Family Structure Study,” Regnerus asked 3,000 adults ages 18-39 (including 248 with parents in a gay relationship) questions about their income levels, mental and physical health, romantic relationships and other markers.
Social scientists and LGBT activists raised red flags from the get-go: Regnerus, whose work was published in the journal Social Science Research, only examined people who had a parent in a gay relationship at some point—not necessarily while they were children. And he didn’t ask subjects to specify if the gay parent was in a stable relationship through their childhood.
“The two million kids being raised by one million gay parents in this country are doing great,” said Freedom to Marry President Evan Wolfson. “And [they] would do even better if their parents didn’t have to deal with legal discrimination, such as the denial of the freedom to marry, and ongoing attacks such as this kind of pseudo-scientific misinformation and the disinformation agenda that’s funding it.”
Regnerus is known for spouting ultra-conservative ideology and his study was funded by the Witherspoon Institute, a conservative think tank with ties to the Family Research Council and the National Organization for Marriage.
But now even he admits there are flaws in his research. ThinkProgress pulled up an interview Regnerus did with anti-gay group Focus on the Family, where he explained:
I’d be more careful about the language I used to describe people whose parents had same-sex relationships. I said ‘lesbian mothers’ and ‘gay fathers,’ when in fact, I don’t know about their sexual orientation—I do know about their same-sex relationship behavior. But as far as the findings themselves, I stand behind them.
Regnerus also confesses he didn’t try to dissect the children’s concept of their parent’s sexuality because, “self-identity is a different kind of thing than behavior, and lot of people weren’t out in that era.”
Despite these faults, Regnerus’ study has been used repeatedly by anti-equality groups like Focus on the Family and NOM. It was even used as evidence in a federal marriage-equality case.
The University of Texas started an investigation on Regnerus for scientific misconduct but ultimately exonerated him, claiming it considered the matter closed.
Blogger Scott Rose, whose reporting prompted the investigation, hinted in a comment on the Advocate that he felt the school was covering its ass.
[The University of Texas-Austin] is in on this research hoax, along with Regnerus and his funders.
I made a Public Information Act request for Regnerus’ study-related communications between David Ochsner—a UT Director of Public Affairs—and any person, about the Regnerus study. UT then sent a letter to the Texas Attorney General, asking for exceptions to my document requests. In that letter, UT describes itself as being a co-investor in the study. And UT tells the Attorney General that Regnerus and UT administration strategized on spin about the study, before it was released. The school anticipated negative reactions and was afraid for UT’s “branding.”
UT officials were not just prepared to answer questions about the research. They knew that the project had been funded by vile bigots with a history of distorting the scientific record for use as a weapon against gays.
What do you think? Should the school start another investigation? Pull his tenure? Demand a retraction? Sound off in the comments section below.