What is the logic of marriage denial?

And this should wrap up Homogamy Week here at Family Inequality…

I am confused by the logic in the arguments against extending marriage rights to gay and lesbian couples.

I earlier pointed to an essay I agree with, arguing that denying marriage rights on the basis of a child well-being argument is wrong-headed. And that’s even before we got the excellent review from the American Sociological Association reaffirming that homogamous-couples cause no demonstrable harm to children.

But now on the other side, Mark Regnerus and his colleagues have submitted a stunning brief for the Supreme Court’s upcoming marriage-rights cases. In it they argue that man-woman parents are best for children, but also that there are too many unanswered questions to draw any firm conclusions about child well-being in gay- and lesbian-parent families — so therefore the Defense of Marriage Act and California’s Proposition 8 should be upheld.

Back up

When Regnerus’s awful study came out — purporting to show (but not actually showing) that children of gay and lesbian parents were worse off then those in “intact biological families” — he disavowed any political intent or implications. When he interviewed himself, it went like this:

Q: Is there a political take-home message in the study?

A: No. As I stated in the article, “this study cannot answer political questions about same-sex relationships…”

Q: Come on. You can’t surmise what people will make of this study politically?

A: You know, I don’t think it easily lends itself to one particular answer to any of the politicized questions that are circulating about gay marriage, or parental rights, etc.

And when he wrote in Slate, he offered an ostensibly even-handed interpretation:

The political take-home message of the NFSS study is unclear, however. On the one hand, the instability detected in the NFSS could translate into a call for extending the relative security afforded by marriage to gay and lesbian couples. On the other hand, it 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.

In fact, Regnerus and his defenders were incensed that he was being treated as if his motives were political. And in his own defense he wrote of the original paper: “Some perceive it as a tool for this or that political project, a role it was never designed to fill. It cannot answer political or legal questions…”

That was then. So now to the amicus brief filed by Regnerus and several other social scientists. Their review of the evidence is irrelevant to their argument, because they conclude that we don’t know enough to draw any empirical conclusions. Still,

With so many significant outstanding questions about whether children develop as well in same-sex households as in opposite-sex households, it remains prudent for government to continue to recognize marriage as a union of a man and a woman, thereby promoting what is known to be an ideal environment for raising children. Marriage is the legal means by which children are stably united with their biological mothers and fathers and poised for optimal development. Opposite-sex parenting allows children to benefit from distinctive maternal and paternal contributions. Given these facts, safeguarding marriage is a liberty to be accorded to children at least as much as to their parents.

So man-woman parenting is good, OK. And we don’t know enough to say anything about gay and lesbian parenting causally. Therefore it is “prudent” to deny marriage rights to gay and lesbian couples, because “safeguarding marriage is a liberty to be accorded to children.”

That is, it was right to tax Edith Windsor $600,000 more because her spouse was female. For the children.

Edith Windsor

I really hope Regnerus gets a chance to testify as an expert on all this someday, because I’d love to hear more about this logic under cross examination.

23 thoughts on “What is the logic of marriage denial?

  1. “In fact, Regnerus and his defenders were incensed that he was being treated as if his motives were political. And in his Regnerus own defense he wrote of the original paper: ”Some perceive it as a tool for this or that political project, A ROLE IT WAS NEVER DESIGNED TO FILL. It cannot answer political or LEGAL questions…””

    Oh what tangled webs we weave when FIRST we practice to deceive
    I think Philips instincts will be validated, and that is all I care to say at this time.


  2. I’ve been dealing with these political activist right wingers for more than a decade, and I was completely unsurprised when Regnerus’ bullshit study “lucked” through the peer review process. Sociology is full of right-wing activist scholars, who command huge grants enabling them to further their research agendas on many topics—from science denial to stripping rights from sexual minorities. The problem is particularly pervasive in family studies, the sociology of religion, and criminology. I hope that this incident will give pause for normal social scientists to evaluate the motivation for some “research.” And, I hope this will lead to a severe discounting of the value of funding from political organizations posing as scholarly think tanks. Dirty money from places like Templeton, Witherspoon, Bradley, Lilly, Pew, and the like is given for a purpose. The purpose is not scientific progress, but to support political causes favored by the granting agencies—and most of the grantees are true believers, like Regnerus, Wilcox, Smith, and the rest of their ilk. I’ve wasted an enormous amount of my own scholarly time dealing with the Regnerus incident, and I am both saddened and offended that some LGBT activists remain uninformed about how science works. In two years, same sex marriage will be a done deal (maybe much sooner), but for the rest of my career I will still have to deal with Regnerus, Wilcox, Smith, and the rest of the right wing goons who dominate my subfield. They will continue to pursue their research agendas with the assistance of multimillion dollar grants, while the rest of us struggle to accomplish what we can with minimal or no funding.


    1. I deleted a comment from Scott Rose that contained personal attacks. To summarize: He thinks Wilcox was a reviewer on the Regnerus paper, and Sherkat is covering it up.


      1. Reviewers for a peer-reviewed scientific journal are not known to the authors, and they are not made public by Social Science Research nor most any other journal (though some journals did experiment with post-publication revelation of reviewers in the past). This is an important part of the scientific review process. I was entrusted with information that nobody else has, and I will not reveal that information [personal insult removed -pnc]. Whether or not a particular person was or was not a reviewer is irrelevant. As I state in my audit, three people reviewed the manuscript, all three voted “Accept with minor revisions.” All three were prominent sociologists and frequent reviewers for Social Science Research. No one individual would have changed the decision to publish Regnerus’ manuscript. No sociological journal has retracted an article in nearly three decades (and that was for outright plagiarism of the entire article), so the shrill voices advocating such a strategy are screaming into a void. There is no cover up. Regnerus’ manuscript was published because of a combination of reviewer inattentiveness, the refusal of certain types of scholars to do scholarly reviews (some people are simply too important to be bothered, eh?), and maybe because a reviewer or two wound up being right-wing ideologues (Regnerus got lucky). There are plenty of right wing ideologues in sociology in general–and on the editorial board of SSR— to make singling out Wilcox a moot point. it doesn’t matter if he was or was not a reviewer. Wackjob activists who claim to know that Wilcox was a reviewer are wrong, they don’t know shit. Indeed, there are at least three people on the SSR board who are just as conservative as Wilcox. I implore people to read my audit, which was published in the November issue. And, especially, I hope that people will give kudos to the wonderful group of scholars who produced the ASA amicus brief. That wasn’t easy, given that ASA has a limited structural capacity to do such things.


      2. It is for certain that Wilcox first referred Regnerus to Social Science Research, and made it sound as though a themed issue based on the Regnerus study were a done deal — before data collection on the NFSS had even begun. Nobody who was not part of the journal, and knows the facts of the case would agree that even minimal scientific publishing standards were upheld.


      3. Apparently, Philip, it is OK for Sherkat to refer to me as “unhinged” but when I accurately criticize him for his unethical actions in giving James Wright cover for violating scientific publishing ethics, you have to remove my comment.

        [Right. I took out his insult. I think his comment adds useful information, however, so I’m leaving it up. -pnc]


  3. “I’ve been dealing with these political activist right wingers for more than a decade, and I was completely unsurprised when Regnerus’ bullshit study “lucked” through the peer review process.”

    Lucked through? Dr. Sherkat as much as I appreciate your scholarship, and I DO, I do appreciate it, I do not believe you, when you wrote of the audit of the Peer Review process, that Dr. James Wright gave you 6 names but didn’t tell you which ones of the 6 reviewed Regnerus and which ones reviewed Marks. I do not believe that a man of your keen intelligence would think, or maybe I should say accept, those conditions to complete an audit. You are way way to smart to accept those as conditions for completing an audit. Because those conditions would *never reveal* conflicts of interest *for each paper*, and that was the purpose of the audit.

    What I have asked of you Dr. Sherkat is that you make a simple statement,

    “No peer reviewers of the Regnerus paper were also paid consultants”.

    You deny having the information to make that statement, I simply do not believe you, I believe that you *do know* which ones of the 6 peer reviewers reviewed Marks and which ones reviewed Regnerus. I believe this to be true because as smart as you are, and you are REALLY smart, conducting an audit of the peer review process *without* knowing the exact names of who reviewed each paper would produce an ambiguous result. And I think you are to smart to accept those conditions. My belief is based on reason, we will have to wait and see in the future if any more information is forthcoming that substantiates what you have said. Alternately, if in fact, I am wrong.

    I do believe that Philip’s instincts and also Sherkats, will be validated IN SPADES, and that is all I care to say at this time.


  4. Wow, finally liberal blog, whom I can read despite being conservative. Definetely I will read you more to gain different perspective on things, even if I usually do not agree with anything you are writing


  5. @sherkat
    ” Sociology is full of right-wing activist scholars,”


    “Now comes a new study of academics’ political affiliations using voter-registration records for tenure-track faculty at 11 California universities. The study, by Christopher F. Cardiff and Daniel B. Klein, finds an average Democrat:Republican ratio of 5:1, ranging from 9:1 at Berkeley to 1:1 at Pepperdine. The humanities average 10:1, while business schools are at only 1.3:1. (Needless to say, even at the heartless, dog-eat-dog, sycophant-of-the-bourgeoisie business schools the ratio doesn’t dip below 1:1.)

    Here’s the most interesting finding. What department has the highest average D:R ratio? You guessed it: sociology, at 44:1.” (boldening is mine)

    Quite frankly, I can’t understand how right-wing goons can dominate a field, when there is 44 democrats (presumably, left-winger) for each one republican (presumably, right wing goon)


    1. First, that is only representative of the samples California schools and is not necessarily generalizable to the country or academia as a whole.

      Moreover, I would like to think that regardless of scientists’ personal political affiliation, they are able to put aside their partisan views and engage in “value-free” research. Part of scientific research is a willingness to follow the evidence, regardless of whether or not it reflects one’s political views or aspirations. (Note: If you don’t think this is possible, then one can only assume the scientific study of social behavior impossible)

      That being said, there are a number of high-profile social scientists who gain notoriety by virtue of their political views diverging from those of their peers (ex. Dinesh D’Souza) whose work is supported as a “necessary” corrective to liberal bias in the social sciences. Moreover, there are a number of conservative and/or religious institutions whose faculty tend to be more conservative. California tend to be characterized as a liberal state, but check out colleges in Western and Southern Virginia.

      Right-wing figures do not “dominate” the field – that is your characterization, not the previous poster’s – but there are many, some of who are respected, high profile academics.


    2. The problem is perhaps, just a guess, that the right wingers attract more funding? I have read a quite a bit in psychology research on sexual minorities. So you go through the psychology Journals and what not. Not a lot of “Does a strong religious faith diminish the incidence of religion depression.” However. move over to Sociology and there is tons and tons and tons of “What role does religion play in a woman being a virgin on her wedding day?” “What role does religion play in adolescents using/not using drugs?” There is a lot, lot,lot of basically *religious research* that scoots under the Sociology door. “Are Evangelicals more likely or less likely to divorce vs Catholics?” “Which Religious faith has the lowest Divorce rate?”

      The Psychologists are mostly atheists so they are not looking to answer religios when they do their research. I read an article that at a big National Psychologist meeting somebody stood up and asked everyone to participate in his poll. He asked the entire group to raise their hand if they attended church regularly. Like 2 hands went up. okay exaggeration but is was overwhelming that the Psychologists are not “church goers”. It is probably not an issue of percentages, more an issue of who will fund the research.

      Look at the Regnerus Research, $700,000 Catholic Witherspoon Institute ponied up. And when you are funded by a Conservative Independent Organization vs NIH for example, they literally can write their own rules. Sean Feiler the wealthy Hedge Fund Broker who funds NOM, the Witherspoon Institute, The American Principals Project, he has now jumped in the game, he is the one who funded the Allen et al anti gay parenting research.


      1. Well, I am not sociologist and I am not familiar with the field except the times, when I search google.scholar for the papers on topics which interest me, so I guess I should believe you.

        Nevertheless, when i was reading about the family abuse, I think I remember the papers by two authors (one of them murray strauss, iirc?) who claimed that they could not get grants, their students were warned that they want get work if they work with them etc – because they have different view than dominating overwhelming liberal perspective

        In fact, whenever i research some topic, I rarely find views from conservative perspective, but then, as I said – I am amateur who just reads whatever I can find on given topic – I just started to read on gay marriages and children well-being.


  6. As I see it, we conservatives (I am moderate conservative by Polish standards) we tend to think “it’s new, it’s not proven it will not cause the damage, and what we have works – therefore let’s not change it”. It seems to me that liberals have attitude “it’s new, it’s not proven it will cause damage – why not try it?”

    In addition, if Regnerus study was wrong and he had political goals, what about the studies about family violence in gay and lesbian couples “proving” the low level of violence in such couples – while not controlling for the education, income level etc – did the authors of such studies also should be condemned because of their political views – or maybe rather they did that because asking volunteer couples was the only method available to those authors?

    I mean, why seek political motives if there is possibility of honest mistake?


    1. szopeno, alright you got my curiosity up. Are you writing from outside of the United States? No need to answer, just ignore if the question is to personal, it’s just that you mentioned Poland.

      I suggest you closely follow this website/blog for the next week. There will be some new information about that Regnerus study released in the press and I’m pretty sure that at some point Dr. Cohen will probably write about it once it hits the news.


      1. Yes, I write from Poland. It is my intention to follow this blog 🙂 I like blogs with different perspective than mine – what’s the point reading people, who think the same as I?


  7. Wouldn’t it be nice if some person with integrity could make an unbiased study and really find out what the situation for children of gay parents is like? No one – left or right – seems interested in what’s good for the children. Avoiding cognitive dissonance is the top priority.


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