As the American Sociological Association convenes in Denver this week, there will be some formal discussions about a possible response by the association to Mark Regnerus’s paper, “How different are the adult children of parents who have same-sex relationships? Findings from the New Family Structures Study,” published this spring in the journal Social Science Research. The request for an association response emerged when it became clear that the study was being used to support the legal case against homogamous (same-sex) marriage, which is at issue in several federal court actions that will likely include the U.S. Supreme Court in the near future.
To bring folks up to speed if they haven’t been following, or as a reference for those involved in discussions, here are some key facts and links.
A number of sections of the ASA, including the Family Section, which I serve as a council member, will consider resolutions asking the association to respond. The Family Section will start its discussion with the following proposal:
We request that the ASA Council intervene via legal briefs in the federal court cases regarding the Defense Of Marriage Act. In particular, we are concerned about the misuse of a published study by Mark Regenerus in the journal Social Science Research, which has been cited in amicus briefs as providing evidence for the harm caused to children raised by gay and lesbian couples. This has been cited in the case of Golinski currently before a Federal appeals court, which may end up before the US Supreme Court. It may well be used in other cases making their way through the courts. Exactly in what form the ASA should respond should be determined after more thorough legal investigation. However, it could range from a simple clarification that the Regenerus study does not support the conclusions offered, to a full-blown analysis of the situation for children raised by gay and lesbian couples (along the lines of that published by the American Psychological Association). The ASA also could decide to join in briefs with other groups. We leave that for the Council to decide. This section offers its membership as a pool of potential experts to consult or assist the ASA in this process.
I don’t know the specific wording or other issues that may emerge in these discussions. I assume that if and when the ASA Council takes up the issue, they will bring their own perspective to the decision. I think it’s an important issue, and also re-elevates the issue of how and when ASA should act as an association.
Events so far (source)
- August 19, 2011: Data collection start date
- February 1, 2012: Paper received by Social Science Research
- February 21, 2012: Data collection end date
- February 24, 2012: Data file delivered to University of Texas “containing the collected data”
- February 29, 2012: Revised paper received by Social Science Research
- March 12, 2012: Paper accepted by Social Science Research
- June 10, 2012: Paper published online
- June 11, 2012: American College of Pediatricians references the paper in its amicus brief filed in the case of Golinski v. United States Office of Personnel Management. See the American Psychological Association and others’ response here (relevant passages of the briefs quoted by me, here).
- June 29, 2012: 200 researchers sign a letter, organized by Gary Gates, to the editor and advisory board of the journal, to “raise serious concerns” about the article.
- August 8, 2012: U.S. District Judge Alan Kay cites Regnerus study in denying suit against Hawaii marriage ban. His summary of the study: “(finding that children raised by married biological parents fared better than children raised in same-sex households in a range of significant outcomes).”
- Controversial Gay-Parenting Study Is Severely Flawed, Journal’s Audit Finds, by Tom Bartlett in the Chronicle of Higher Education
- Is the Research All Right?, by Steve Kolowich on Inside Higher Ed.
- Back in the Gay: Does a new study indict gay parenthood or make a case for gay marriage?, by William Saletan in Slate.
- Do Children of Same-Sex Parents Really Fare Worse?, by Belinda Luscombe in Time Healthland.
- Study Questioning Same-Sex Parenting Draws Fire, by Stephanie Pappas in LiveScience.
- Elsevier press release: “The most significant story in this study is arguably that children appear most apt to succeed well as adults when they spend their entire childhood with their married mother and father, and especially when the parents remain married to the present day.”
- His self-directed Q & A on the study, declaring, “an assessment of causation is not possible here,” discounting political implications or intent.
- His publicity piece in Slate: Queers as Folk: Does it really make no difference if your parents are straight or gay?. The study “may suggest that the household instability that the NFSS reveals is just too common among same-sex couples to take the social gamble of spending significant political and economic capital to esteem and support this new (but tiny) family form while Americans continue to flee the stable, two-parent biological married model, the far more common and accomplished workhorse of the American household, and still—according to the data, at least—the safest place for a kid.”
- The study’s unadjusted findings in simplistic graphic display are here.
Sociologists’ critical commentary
- Debra Umberson, Shannon Cavanagh, Jennifer Glass, and Kelly Raley on Huffington Post
- Andrew Perrin on Scatterplot
- Megan Carroll, D’Lane Compton & C.J. Pascoe on Social (In)Queery
- Fabio Rojas on OrgTheory
- 200 Researchers Respond to Regnerus Paper, letter drafted by Gary Gates
- My comment: Bad science on top of stigma for lesbian and gay parents,
Defenses of the study and against ‘witch hunts’
- A Social Scientific Response to the Regnerus Controversy, by a group of religion scholars
- In Appreciation of Mark Regnerus, by Bradley Wright
- An Academic Auto-da-Fé: A sociologist whose data find fault with same-sex relationships is savaged by the progressive orthodoxy, by Christian Smith
- The Gay Parenting Witch Hunt, by Robert VerBruggen in National Review
- Revenge of the Sociologists: The perils of politically incorrect academic research, by Andrew Ferguson in the Weekly Standard