American Sociological Association releases SCOTUS brief

The American Sociological Association has released its long-awaited amicus brief on the same-sex (homogamy) marriage cases currently before the Supreme Court.

In the association’s press release, ASA President Cecilia Ridgeway is quoted as saying:

The results of our review are clear. There is no evidence that children with parents in stable same-sex or opposite-sex relationships differ in terms of well-being. Indeed, the greater stability offered by marriage for same-sex as well as opposite-sex parents may be an asset for child well-being. An issue at the heart of these cases is whether family composition, per se, affects the well-being of children and thus, provides a justification for limiting the right to marry. This core question is an empirical one and is the subject of a broad range of social science research. As a scientific body, ASA has a duty to provide the court with a systematic and balanced review of the evidence to assess what the consensus of scholarly research has shown.

The impetus for ASA action was the publication and aggressive dissemination of a paper by sociologist Mark Regnerus, with funding from right-wing foundations, that purported to show negative outcomes for children of gay and lesbian parents. The fallout included a letter denouncing the study signed by 200 researchers, an investigation into the review process by the journal, and a special issue dedicated to the controversy. (My review of the events through last August is, with links, is here; the special issue is here.)

Out of the discussion a number of sections within the association asked the ASA Council to commission a brief, a decision that was controversial among sociologistsSome people expressed reluctance to have the association offer a substantive conclusion about ongoing research, or to cast judgment on peer-reviewed work. There is a normal amount of anxiety over whether the association should take public positions perceived as political.

My opinion is that the brief, under the research direction of Wendy Manning, a top-notch researcher with a non-ideologue reputation, strikes the right balance and should allay most sociologists’ concerns. Of course it is argumentative in a way that the most peer-reviewed work is not – and doesn’t go out of its way to represent its opponents’ views. But the strong conclusion is well-justified: on the issue of same-sex parenting and children’s well-being, we have the closest thing to a (social) scientific consensus we could hope for:

When the social science evidence is exhaustively examined—which the ASA has done—the facts demonstrate that children fare just as well when raised by same-sex parents … Unsubstantiated fears regarding same-sex child rearing do not overcome these facts and do not justify upholding DOMA and Proposition 8.

And it correctly points out the biggest problems with the Regnerus study, its wrongheaded setup and comparisons, and its misleading interpretations.

In short, I highly recommend the brief as an excellent piece of scientific writing, and a model for argument from evidence. And I like to see statements that include the phrase, “As a scientific body, ASA has a duty to…”


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13 responses to “American Sociological Association releases SCOTUS brief

  1. Just an hour ago someone commented on a NYTimes story:

    Homosexual couples cannot procreate, and when they choose to adopt, the children often suffer psychological, emotional, and relational problems (please see Mark Regnerus’ New Family Structure Study).


    • Scott Rose

      If it bothers you that people are citing Regnerus’s paper as though it had received peer review, why don’t you speak up in public about the fact that the peer review process was corrupt? Wright knowingly published Sherkat’s lie that Wright told Sherkat the six peer reviewers of the Marks and Regnerus papers, but not who peer reviewed which paper. That is a lie. Sherkat was told who reviewed which paper. One of the peer reviewers of the Regnerus paper was W. Brad Wilcox. I believe you already understand his heaping pile-up of conflicts of interest. Sherkat did state “Scholars who should have known better failed to recuse themselves from peer review.” That is putting it very, very mildly. A prominent scholar submitted an essay to Wright for the November issue of SSR. That essay contained irrefutable evidence that the peer review process was invalid. Wright gave Elsevier the power to reject the essay for publication, and Elsevier in fact rejected it. Meanwhile, however, Elsevier tells the public that Wright has total editorial independence about what gets published. The company and Wright are lying to the public.


  2. And it is for that exact comment that I have personally read at least 1,000 times, that the study should be RETRACTED!!!
    It should be retracted and sent out to peer reviewers who were not ALSO Paid Consultants to the study.
    The fact that none of you Sociologsts will do anything about this other than Pahil Cohen who occasionally writes an article about it nothing is being done.

    In the meantime it is STILL being cited by opponents to Civil Marriage for Sexual Minorities because it DOES remain published. Why has there never been an investigation initiated by a Sociologist? An Ethics Complaint against Wright?
    It could be the shortest Ethics Investigation in History. “Wright were any of the Peer Reviewers of Regnerus’ paper also paid consultants BY Regnerus?” “No, all peer reviewers were independent with no monetary interest” Ethics investigation over. Move on. But if the answer is “Yes” , what if the answer is “Yes”?

    You should NOT let this be over, you should finish the job, “You” you Sociologists.


  3. It is really well done, I agree. So very proud of the ASA at this moment.


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