‘More managerial than intellectual’: How right-wing Christian money brought us the Regnerus study

There is a new release of documents, obtained by the American Independent through a Texas Freedom of Information Act request, regarding Mark Regnerus, a sociologist at the University of Texas-Austin (UT). The new documents are excerpted here and here. This adds an interesting chapter to the ongoing story of the infamous paper published in the journal Social Science Research (even if you haven’t been following it so far.)

In that paper, Regnerus reported negative consequences of being raised by lesbian or gay parents. The study has been thoroughly debunked and substantively should be completely disregarded. Regnerus subsequently signed onto an amicus brief for the Supreme Court, using the study to justify continued denial of marriage rights to gay and lesbian couples. (Here is a review of the controversy with links, and here is the most recent debunking).

From my reading, the information in these documents shows that declarations by Brad Wilcox and Mark Regnerus were not true:

  1. Brad Wilcox was not truthful when he said he never served as an “officer” of the Witherspoon Institute, even though he was director of the institute’s Program on Marriage, Family, and Democracy – which funded the study – and when he implied that he did not have a direct hands-on role in it. In fact, Wilcox played a leading role in the original conception, the design, and the dissemination of the results of this study. His description of himself as, “one of about a dozen paid academic consultants,” surely was deliberately misleading.
  2. Mark Regnerus was not truthful when he said that the Witherspoon Institute “had nothing to do with the study design, or with the data analyses, or interpretations, or the publication of the study.” This assertion appeared in several public venues as well as in the article itself. In fact, Witherspoon, in the person of Brad Wilcox as well as its other officers, was heavily involved throughout the process.

We could have guessed that already; these new documents are merely confirming the probable. But the bad behavior of these individuals ultimately is not as interesting as the story of how Christian conservatives used big private money to produce knowledge in service of their political goals, and how the seemingly puny defenses of the academic establishment may be easily overrun by well-organized, well-funded interest groups.

(To clarify: I didn’t request or publish these documents; I am just discussing them. But the ethics of this exposure seem OK to me: Regnerus ran almost a million dollars in research money through a public university’s research center – this isn’t his private life we’re talking about. As a Maryland employee, incidentally, my own email may be subject to public records request. If you catch me lying and covering up my true motives in my emails, I will be embarrassed, and that’s one reason I try not to do that.)

Fall 2010: Witherspoon lines up its team

Witherspoon is a tax-exempt, right-wing think tank at Princeton University whose leaders have ties to the Bradley Foundation, and the Christian conservative Family Research Council, Ethics and Public Policy Center, Institute on Religion and Democracy, and so on. It also funds the Institute for American Values. In 2011, the New Family Structures Study – the Regnerus study grant – accounted for more than 70% of its external grants. Its president is Luis Tellez.

This is how Regnerus described the funding for the study in his self-Q&A:

Funding is hard to get these days. Witherspoon had nothing to do with the study design, or with the data analyses, or interpretations, or the publication of the study. To me, I treated it the same as if the funding came from NICHD or NSF.

Q: So why didn’t you go to NICHD or NSF for funding?

A: For two reasons. First, because in informal conversation about it, Witherspoon expressed openness to funding it. I was between book projects and it sounded like an interesting thing to pursue. I informed Witherspoon that if I were to run the study, I would report the results, whatever they may be. And honestly my bet was that it would be a far more mixed set of results, with many null findings. Second, I actually don’t think a study like this would fly at NICHD or NSF.

But this was not the idea of an independent researcher looking for funding to pursue his scientific questions. Rather, the early emails in the document release show Witherspoon president Tellez and Wilcox fundraising and developing the vision for the project.

On September 13, 2010, Tellez wrote to someone named David at Abt Associates, a research firm that has done work on marriage promotion: “At the request of Brad Wilcox, I am sending you a description of ‘The New Family Structure Study.’”

There can be little doubt Tellez and Wilcox were motivated by political goals. There are two indicators of that. The first is technical but important: the proposal Tellez sent, forwarded from Wilcox, described their plan to “sample 1000 young adults from same-sex households, 1000 young adults from adopted households, and 1000 young adults from heterosexual households.” As would become immediately apparent once actual experts were consulted, finding 1000 young adults raised by gay and lesbian couples through random survey sample methods would be next to impossible without a budget in the millions of dollars – there are simply too few of them in the population. Any researcher with substantive expertise and interests in this area would have seen that as an outlandish proposal. Substantively, they did not understand this area of research – but they understood the politics very well.

And second, in a Tellez email to Regnerus later that month – apparently working out the details of their new arrangement for Regnerus to conduct the study on Witherspoon’s behalf – he wrote:

“It would be great to have this before major decisions of the Supreme Court but that is secondary to the need to do this and do it well… I would like you to take ownership and think of how you want it done… rather than someone like me dictating parameters… but of course, here to help.” [ellipses in original]

You might think Witherspoon was motivated to discover the truth – whatever it was – so that it could inform the Supreme Court’s same-sex marriage decisions. But I believe Tellez, Wilcox and Regnerus were sure they would find that children raised by gay and lesbian parents fare worse than those in what they smugly call “gold standard” families. They believed they would find that if they did do the research “right.” And when they were unable to get anything like that sample they imagined, they adjusted. Their decision was to boost the sample of children of gay or lesbian parents by including anyone who reported a parent ever having a same-sex relationship — a change certain to produce the negative-outcomes result. Believing in what they expected in the first place, and motivated to produce the result they were already planning for, they showed no hesitation in drawing the conclusion they initially expected – even though it was not supported by the evidence they actually got.

Anyway, on September 21, 2010, Regnerus sent Wilcox a detailed email, seeking his approval – on behalf of Witherspoon – for the plan he intended to bring to the director of the Population Research Center at UT. Wilcox responded, on September 22, with “YES” to each item. The message goes like this (excerpted):

Dear Mark:

This sounds right on target. My thoughts in CAPS. Thanks, Brad.

[then, quoting Regnerus’s message:]


OK, so let me process some of this. I need to have my stuff together before I approach Mark Hayward [director of UT’s Population Research Center], perhaps early next week if I’m clear on things.

Tell me if any of these aren’t correct.

  1. We want to run this project through UT’s PRC. I’m presuming 10% overhead is acceptable to Witherspoon. YES [Wilcox’s reply –pnc]
  2. We want a broad coalition comprising several scholars from across the spectrum of opinions… [goes on to discuss individuals]. YES
  3. We want to “repeat” in some ways the DC consultation with the group outlined in #2. … [details of how the planning document will be crafted] YES
  4. This document would in turn be used to approach several research organizations for the purpose of acquiring bids for the data collection project. YES

Did I understand that correctly?

And per your instruction, I should think of this as a planning grant, with somewhere on par of $30-$40k if needed. YES

I would like, at some point, to get more feedback from Luis and Maggie [Gallagher? –pnc] about the ‘boundaries’ around this project, not just costs but also their optimal timelines (for the coalition meeting, the data collection, etc.), and their hopes for what emerges from this project, including the early report we discussed in DC. Feel free to forward this to them.

Just to be clear that the idea and impetus were coming from Witherspoon, two other emails from that day show the chain of command. Tellez wrote to Regnerus: “we will include some money for you and Brad on account of the time and effort you will be devoting to this.” Regnerus replied,

Got it; thanks, Luis, and Brad. … I have a light teaching load all this year, which is a significant help. Providential, perhaps.

On October 19, Tellez got back to David from Abt to say:

Mark Regnerus of the Population Research Center at the University of Texas-Austin is in conversations with us about PRC hosting the project. When I have more specifics I will let you know.

David responded, “Thanks for the update. A pop center as host sounds promising.” To which Tellez replied: “…you set me off in the search for that major university and it appears we have found it.”

Regnerus’s CV shows a $55,000 “planning grant” from Witherspoon starting in October 2010. (I don’t think Abt ended up working on the research.)

This is a beautiful illustration of the legitimacy-seeking nature of the Witherspoon project. By hiring Regnerus, and getting UT’s population center to host it, Tellez and Wilcox were buying their seal of academic objectivity – the tool they would later use to boost the political influence of the published study. (I’m not expert in this area of how elites construct “popular” opinion – all I know I learned from books like Domhoff’s Who Rules America, which describes this process pretty well.)

Starting in October, there are a series of emails from Regnerus attempting to recruit academic consultants to enhance that legitimacy. He offered professors a few thousand dollars and a paid trip to a meeting in return for their input. The requests are from Regnerus – not Tellez and Wilcox – and in them Regnerus distances himself from the well-known political bent of Witherspoon.

For example, he wrote to sociologist Stanford sociologist Michael Rosenfeld on October 25:

So my job here is more managerial than intellectual – to pull together a small team of ideologically diverse scholars who are serious about doing good science on this important subject. … This is *not* some right-wing conspiracy (I myself am moderate and largely apolitical); while the initial funding source is conservative, they’re actually pursuing (and are already getting) additional financial support from across the spectrum.

After listing some other possible consultants, Regnerus writes, “On the more conservative side, Brad Wilcox of UVa has agreed to be part of this…”

Rosenfeld sent an email declining to participate. (In it, incidentally, Rosenfeld advised Regnerus, “creating a new nationally representative sample of children raised by same-sex couples, with your proposed sample size of 1,000 is in my view an [sic] very ambitious, and maybe an overly ambitious undertaking.” Regnerus got the same response from Chintan Turakhia at Abt: “This is obviously an extremely rare population. Most probability based sampling methods are likely to be cost prohibitive.”)

In his attempt to recruit one professor, Regnerus wrote on December 2,

I’m an odd pick to run this thing… I didn’t know anybody at the Witherspoon before several months ago. Basically, was a friend of a friend who introduced me. … I’m between books and this hit at the right time, so fine, I can manage such a project, provided I locate good advisors … I realize the funder is conservative, but they are working hard as well to get funding from pro-GLBTQ orgs and donors, and are nearing that.

The emails I’ve seen contain no trace of this effort to find progressive donors, and none eventually were found, but the claim showed Regnerus trying to put a legitimate face on the project.

2011: How sausage is made

Regnerus and Wilcox did not sit around waiting for the study to be completed. They were working on packaging the results before the data collection started.

On January 21, Regnerus wrote to Wilcox,

Any new thoughts about Cynthia [Osborne -pnc] as co-writer of the report? I remain positively inclined toward it. What are the negatives?

Wilcox replied, apparently wary of Osborne’s potential liberal influence:

Great idea. No Negatives. … My suggestion for report: You coauthor introduction, lit review, data and methods, and results sections and THEN write your own distinct conclusions.

Osborne ended up a coauthor on an early presentation about the study for the Population Association of America, and also wrote a critical yet supportive comment in Social Science Research – and she is listed as a “key collaborator” on the study’s web page.

Meanwhile, Tellez was working to raise more money for the study, turning to the Bradley Foundation, which would eventually contribute $90,000. (The Bradley Foundation has a long history of support conservative pro-marriage causes.)

On April 5, Tellez wrote to Bradley vice president Dan Schmidt asking for $200,000:

to examine whether young adults raised by same-sex parents fare as well as those raised in different familial settings. This is a question that must now be answered – in a scientifically serious way – by those who are in favor of traditional marriage. … Our first goal is to seek the truth, whatever that may turn out to be. Nevertheless, we are confident that the traditional understanding of marriage will be vindicated by this study as long as it is done honestly and well.

That led to a planned conference call. On April 29 Tellez wrote to Michael Hartmann, Bradley’s director of research:

Mark Regnerus is in the process of preparing a proposal… I have asked Brad Wilcox to be in the call as well as Mark. The purpose of the call, in my view, is to update you as to the importance of the project, and to explore ways in which Bradley could assist in supporting this project.

Throughout 2011, Regnerus, Wilcox and Tellez stayed in touch on budget and planning matters. In a detailed budget report to Tellez on July 7, Regnerus wrote that, “Brad and I decided to pay [blacked out] $15,000 to co-analyze and co-author the report.”

He also reported that he would spend some Witherspoon travel money to visit with Glenn Stanton from Focus on the Family (author of Marriage on Trial: The Case Against Same-Sex Marriage and Parenting), and that he would pay for Wilcox to attend the NIH conference “Counting Families” that summer.

On August 23, Regnerus reported back to Tellez on his travels, subject: “with Brad”:

I spent the day yesterday with Brad and a couple other researchers (Glenn Stanton, Focus, and Scott Stanley, U of Denver), and spent some time discussing public/media relations for the NFSS project. Anyways, time well spent and we feel like we have a decent plan moving forward.

Tellez gently replied, “At some point, I would like to know the plan… at your convenience” [ellipses in original], and Regnerus promptly filled him in on the details on the media strategy, such as

Brad thinks we should invite three journalists then – an NPR reporter, an Atlantic monthly writer, and an AP journalist (I can’t remember the names of the last two – Brad does…).

The data collection had begun four days earlier, and already the media plan was ramping up. Another message, from Wilcox to Regnerus on September 12, shows Wilcox’s continued assistance with the media:

Michael Cromartie runs a big press gathering in Miami in the spring. Very informal, expansive, great access to top media players. Love to get you and [blacked out] there @ the time the report is released. He’s interested.

Cromartie is vice president of the aforementioned Ethics and Public Policy Center. In this ABC News clip his event is described as “maybe the best junket in all of journalism.” The clip happens to show Brad Wilcox speaking there (apparently about his work on divorce trends).


Finally, there is a message from Wilcox to Regnerus that I can’t find a date for.

Yes, I think you have to keep in mind that even getting a report from UT W [with –pnc] Paul Amato on board is a huge achievement.

BTW: I have an idea. Steven Nock’s good friend Jim Wright is editor of SSR [Social Science Research], a good peer-reviewed journal that does lots on family.

He might be open to a special issue on our dataset – esp because Steve had hoped to study the issue. Wright also likes Paul Amato.

So, down the road, I suggest we do a report AND invite a number of people from across the spectrum to contribute to a special issue of SSR on the new data.

This seems to be the point at which Wilcox plants the idea of publishing the study in SSR. Two things about it are interesting. The first is describing the report – coming from UT, and with Paul Amato, a respected Penn State sociologist “on board” – as a “huge achievement.” Why is it a huge achievement? Is it not just the natural outcome of a large-scale academic study? Maybe Wilcox sees every published article as a “huge achievement,” and he’s merely encouraging a junior colleague. But I think he sees it that way because it represents the accomplishment of legitimacy for the study.

And the second point is Wilcox calls it “our dataset.”

Inside outside

In the end, two academic insiders with PhDs, Wilcox and Regnerus – enabled by various PhD allies, credulous consultants, the journal editor and his reviewers – were the conduits for a million dollars’ worth of foundation-driven anti-gay marriage PR, disguised in legitimacy-laced peer review and served up to activists, courts, and legislators around the country with a media campaign and an animated web site.

Comments short and polite, please…

83 thoughts on “‘More managerial than intellectual’: How right-wing Christian money brought us the Regnerus study

  1. You may well be right in all of this, but what about the mere fact that some 95 percent of sociologists and social psychologists identify as liberals, is that in any way a problem in a field where practically all findings have a political relevance? And even more important, where is the concern with the children? They don’t need liberals and conservatives bickering about this. They need good homes and good parents. Unless wealthy Californian lesbians are representative of all gays, they are still waiting for you guys to do your job. (Hope that was short and polite enough.)


    1. This may be true, but do their politics reflect in their research or does their research reflect in their politics? Also, the sampling problem is an issue because poor gays and lesbians cannot afford to adopt kids. If we had a sample of poor gays and lesbians we would probably find poorer outcomes, but what does this have to do with sexuality? Economic status is an excellent predictor of child outcomes and it’s unlikely that sexuality would have a significant effect. Still, these are simply hypotheses. If we’re concerned about kids then we should restrict adoption to only rich couples regardless of sexuality.


      1. Check out the study “Political Diversity in Social and
        Personality Psychology” by Yoel Inbar and Joris Lammers atTilburg University in Holland. They asked 800 social psychologists anonymously about their attitudes towards conservative colleagues. Here’s from the abstract:

        “In decisions ranging from paper reviews to hiring, many social and personality psychologists said that they would discriminate against openly conservative colleagues. The more liberal respondents were, the more they said they would discriminate.”

        As for socio-economic status, yes that’s a factor. But this is not to say that adjusting for it will account for all the bad outcomes. That’s what researchers need to look into.


    2. Mignon Moore of UCLA has done interesting case studies of African-American lesbian mothers of relatively modest economic circumstances Many of the most difficult-to-place children in the foster care system (and they would be, for example, 8 – 15-year-old African American males from very troubled backgrounds, and with either disabilities or mental health problems) are fostered and then adopted by African-American lesbian women, who care about their adopted children’s humanity — whereas virtually nobody else will even think to foster much less adopt such children. It boggles the mind to know that there are heterosupremacist bigots so narrow-minded that they believe such women and children have to be discriminated against in law “for the good of the children.”


    3. This has nothing to do with conservative or liberal; it’s everything to do with honest or dishonest. Regnerus cooked up a study to order just as a fry cook cooks up a hamburger and his study is dishonest in just about every possible way, yet it continues to exist in a “respected” sociological journal and be used in ways which continue to damage gay families and their children.

      For instance, we’ve just had a Russian TV commercial which cites the Regnerus study as saying that gay people adopt children to molest them (yes, I know that Regnerus has denounced that commercial, but perhaps if he’d done honest research and not cooked the books, this commercial would never have been made).

      The damage that Regnerus has done is far more insidious than most people realize. This bogus “study” is now being cited in family courts all over the country to deny custody and even visitation to gay parents who are leaving their straight marriages. These never make headlines because family court proceedings, by and large, are confidential.

      Second, something which should be of concern to readers of this blog, is the damage Regnerus has done to his own profession, and to the ability of future researchers to do actual, meaningful studies of gay families with children. Regnerus, his funders and defenders have poisoned the well.

      I can tell you as a legally married gay man (who has been publicly out for over 50 years) that, if we had children, adopted or otherwise, I would think long and hard about agreeing to have my children studied by a member of the ASA, because the Regnerus study’s conclusions were deliberately skewed to deliberately damage families headed by same sex parents. Why should I trust anyone else when Regnerus continues as a member in good standing, continues in a tenured position at a major research university, and whose fraudulent (there, I said it!) study has not been withdrawn, even though Regnerus has admitted that his conclusions don’t fit the data (such as it is…).l

      Future researchers are, as a result of Regnerus’s perfidy, going to have a much more difficult time finding families to study, and that’s a shame.


      1. It has everything to do with politics since clearly all the studies focusing on wealthy Californian lesbians are using that sample to prove what they want to prove for political reasons. Those results are inevitably skewed, but that’s not a problem for you because they say what you want to hear. There are thousands of leftist Regneruses out there but you are not concerned about them. And that means you’re also not concerned with the children since they can only benefit from high quality, unbiased research.

        In the end the truth always comes out. In ten or twenty years we will know the outcomes of regular working- or middle class gay men adopting children. Keep your fingers crossed.


  2. Dr. Cohen thank you for your thoughtful analysis.
    If your readers would care to see some of these docs they can be found here

    I will wait for other Sociologists to weigh in because I am not a Sociologist, but I do NOT see how it is within the Ethics of the Field or within the Ethics of Scientific Publishing that the researcher can lie in his report and claim to have worked independently of his funder when the EVIDENCE shows that he did not, that in fact his funder was deeply involved in ALL phases of the research project. Is this ethical in your field? Is lying in your research report okay?


  3. From a Mark Regnerus email to the head of the Witherspoon Foundation dated, August 23, 2011 (four days after data collection begins):
    “We’d rather the blogosphere fire up after the release than to be prepared in advance for it.”


  4. I ain’t saying nothin’, but “not truthful” above seems to be in direct contrast to Principle B of the ASA Code of Ethics:
    “Sociologists conduct their affairs in ways that inspire trust and confidence; they do not knowingly make statements that are false, misleading, or deceptive.”


    1. Let’s hear it for Principal B then!!!!
      It is NOT enough for you to drop by and comment here and then leave Dr. Perrin, it is not enough.
      Neither for you Dr. Cohen to make these observations and then move on with, “Well I exposed it”
      It is simply not enough.


  5. This is a very interesting video shot by Regnerus’s school newspaper. Shot June 13, 2012 (the study was released FREE to the public June 11, 2012). In it he reiterates how he worked alone with no influence from his funders. It is hard to her the reporter questioning him but if you listen closely you can make out the questions.


    1. Regnerus quotes from the video: “I don’t have a political ax to grind. I know the funders are conservative. I don’t know what they make of this. … My views have never been a part of this process, or affect how I go about analyzing things. … I don’t have anything to do with what happens next, from the left or from the right.”


      1. That is not true that he doesn’t have anything to do with what happens next. He has been riding this thing like a sled. Just in January he was out with Maggie Gallagher and Brad Wilcox at the National Review Institute’s annual Summit, he was a featured speaker.

        Then in November he was out at Princeton with Robert Oscar Lopez at the annual Love and Fidelity Network in Princeton. BTW the Love and Fidelity Network is grateful toe the Witherspoon Institute because they have free office space at Witherspoons office.

        So he has been out self promoting himself and his “study”. There is something else he attended also but I can’t think of it off hand, I just remember these two off the top of my head.


  6. My opinion on this:
    1) It’s ok to carry a study, openly admitting you want to get an argument for you beliefs.
    2) It’s ok to get a funding from think-tank
    3) It’s not ok when you tweak the study settings until you get results you think are ok

    I am aware for some time that data seems to indicate there is nodifference between children from stable same-sex and stable different-sex relationships. My first question here is however (this is a real question, not a rethoric one or trying to start a dispute): is there the same stability ratio between same-sex and different-sex pairs?


    1. We don’t know. Answering a question like that requires a generation or so of data, and the context for homogamous relationships has changed so rapidly that 20-year-old data is not that useful. The additional research challenge is that the number of gay and lesbian couples is both quite small and highly diverse. For example, you would like to be able distinguish between couples in first marriages that choose adoption and those in blended families who have children from previous marriages.


      1. Hm, but doesn’t that mean that anyone claiming that there are (provably) no differences between children raised by stable gay pairs and stable “traditional” marriages, is as wrong as Regnerus?


      2. szopeno: Nobody’s said that there are provably no differences. If you examine the so-called “no differences hypothesis” what is generally claimed is the absence of demonstrated differences, not the reverse.


      3. We should be cognizant of how the heterosupremacist enemy has poisoned the public vocabulary on this issue, by making it all about the phrase “no differences.” While there were some same-sex parenting studies that did in fact use that language, “no differences” was not a point adamantly insisted upon by those researchers. Rather, what the early studies, and their later repetitions, and cumulative evidence proved, was that there is nothing about homosexual orientation, per se, that precludes gay people from being loving and effective parents. Regnerus and his various heterosupremacist enablers are attempting to create a “scientific” notion that something about homosexual orientation, per se, makes gay parents inferior as parents. And they are doing that by hammering on their having, allegedly, disproven a “no differences” finding. Note that some of the past studies on same-sex parents’ child outcomes actually alleged to have found that, in comparison to some heterosexual-headed families, children of some same-sex headed families have *better* child outcomes. Reporting better child outcomes (whether it is true, or not) is not reporting “no differences.” Regnerus & Co. are using the “no differences” phrase in a political and propagandistic, not in a scientific way.


      4. Hm, I cannot reply under Scott Rose directly…

        @Scott Rose
        You criticize Regnerus, while quoting the studies which used convenience samples, from better-than-average educated and earning pairs? Now that’s what I call double standard.

        It never ceased to surprise me that if someone, who produces results we don’t like, we attack his methodology as flawed, while if someone produces the results we like, we are completely blind to his/hers methodology


  7. szopeno, “My first question here is however (this is a real question, not a rethoric one or trying to start a dispute): is there the same stability ratio between same-sex and different-sex pairs?”

    I am probably not the best person to respond since I am straight. BUT I read a ton of comments on gay blogs, especially by gay men. There is one unifying theme to the thousands of comments I have read, maybe best capsulized in this one comment in particular I remember,

    “I’m 52 and i don’t have anybody in my life I would want to marry right now, but I have hopes one day to. I want to have the right to get married if I find that guy. One thing I can say looking back over my life, when I grew up I never saw any normal married gay couples, if I had, if I would have grown up seeing that as a possibility for me, I think the whole arc of my life would have been different. It is not that I am unhappy now, I have a good life and plenty of very dear friends and I am close to my family, BUT if I would have seen married gay couples as a young gay man I do think it would have changed the arc of my life.”

    I would also like to suggest another historical POV. When women were granted the right to vote under the 19th Amendment in 1920, in fact very few of them voted. I don’ remember the exact statistics but I remember the point being made that, initially very few women voted after they had been granted the right to vote, but as the years went by more and more and more women voted. And these changes, the participation of women in voting, took decades to change.

    So szopeno you are going to the point that Regnerus raises in his *non peer reviewed* rebuttal report wherein he raises relationship instability as a factor in same gender parenting and the outcomes of children. Stated another way, “Well I couldn’t fine enough true same sex headed families so maybe they don’t exist because the gays are inherently unstable”. Probably Witherspoon is right now seeking a researcher to analyze the stability of same gender couples, is my guess. To that I would say, remember the “arc of my life” and the participation of women who voted once they actually got the right, and how many decades it took it was until women voted in great numbers.


    1. Thanks for the long answer. Indeed, the historical inability of marriage for gays may be a factor which would influence for years the stability of gay marriages when the marriages are legal and no longer stigmatised.

      I have not read Regnerus rebuttal yet, btw, though I have already downloaded it.

      However, in my humble opinion this may be an issue more in the difference between conservative and liberal attitudes, which I summarised in previous post as

      1) conservatives: “we have no proof that this change is OK, and traditionally this was different, was so let’s avoid it”
      2) liberals “we have no proof that this change is not OK, and it seems inconclusively that’s is OK, so let’s try it”

      I do not say that liberal reasons for backing gay marriage are just the capricious and whimsical attitudes “let’s try it and see what’s happened”; I am rather trying to reason what are the differences with the attittudes to the arguments related to the gay marriage. In fact sometimes I think that if gay marriages would be around for 200 years, then future conservatives may defend such marriages against any attacks on grounds of, well, our conservatism.


      1. There may be political and psychological reasons why people would favor the continued denial of civil rights to gay and lesbian people. What there are not, as of this writing, are any scientific reasons.


      2. I think the best answer I have seen so far on this is from Paul Amato in his article at JSSR published the same day. I forget what they call it not peer review but kind of an observation report. Paul Amato wrote something along these lines, “Yes it is true that most of the studies showing no difference are smaller studies BUT if having same sex parents is damaging to children we would have known by now. In other words this would have already bubbled up.”


      3. @andrewperrin
        Forgive me, but I came from Poland, when the debate about gay marriages has just started, with the law about “partner civil unions” was just shot down in the parliament (with the one of two black deputees in Polish parliament, pastor Godson, was called “nigger” by progressives because he was against the law). Therefore I am just starting to read about hte issue.

        What civil rights are denied to gays? marriage is not just a civil right, after all. Marriages are granted special privileges by the state, and no one is entitled to privilege just by being born. We may discuss whether modern marriages still deserve the privileges, as the reasons for which they were granted seem to be no longer valid in modern society; but surely you cannot argue that if someone is unlikely to enjoy the privilege because of his either lifestyle or biology, this is violation of his civil rights.

        I will reiterate that I’m the new to the debate and I came from the quite conservative country, where discussion is mainly reduced to progressives painting doors of professors who are against gay marriages and conservatives calling names their opponents, without much real debate at all. Hence, please do not assume that if I sound aggressive I am indeed aggressive – you have probably listen to some arguments for so long that they are obvious to you, while they are not obvious at all to me.


      4. @str8grandmother

        I have skimmed through the Regenerus rebuttal, and in addition I have read the Schumm’s paper from the special issue linked by Mr. Cohen.

        I expected Schumm’s paper to be thourough critique of the Regnerus methodology; instead, Schumms seems to argue that Regnerus methodology was well within the practices of other researches and the flaws are no larger than made by the other researchers.

        In fact, in this very thread someone is mentioning the studies who show advantages for children of gay marriages; when IIRC those studies were comparing more-than-average well earning and well educated gay parents with average parents.

        At the moment, it seems to me that is just the case of well known phenomenon, where people tend to disbelieve and scrutinize more the data which contradicts their beliefs, while not applying the same standard to data fitting to their beliefs. The only thing I find troubling is the fact that Regnerus presumably lied when being interviewed; but I have read a lot of politically motivated research when I was searching the information about family violence or gender differences (Hyde comes to mind) and nobody criticizes it as long as the methodology is relatively sound (against, nobody seems to criticize Hyde on basis of minor flaws in her methodology and her far-fetched conclusions).


      5. @szopen, “I have skimmed through the Regenerus rebuttal, and in addition I have read the Schumm’s paper from the special issue linked by Mr. Cohen. ”

        Oh, you mean paid consultant to the Regnerus paper, Walter Schumm? That is the one you read?


      6. @szopen: in the United States the right to marriage is a civil right, both legally (based on Loving vs. Virginia) and also culturally insofar as it is a set of privileges provided by the state. I cannot speak to the Polish situation.


      7. @andrewperrin
        But why? Legal marriage is a privilege, which is granted because of certain advantages of supporting marriages for the society – similarly as free university education for the most gifted (not everyone can get free education at universities), pay leaves for mothers (i am not women, so I have no chance to get it) etc other privileges granted by state to certain classes of people based on their lifestyles or biology. So why this idea that this is a civil right? I don’t get it.


  8. Wilcox writes to Regnerus — clearly before the study had been finished — about a special issue themed to Regnerus’s paper, as though that themed issue were already a done deal. Who, on the editorial board of a science journal, is in a position legitimately to make such an offer to a researcher? This communication from Wilcox sheds light on the illegitimate peer review process through which the Regnerus paper was published. By Wright’s admission, he used no topic experts — in violation of SSR’s own published peer review policy, which says that authors on esoteric topics can expect to wait many months just for the editor to locate appropriate experts to do the peer review. Not only did Wright not take the expected months to locate topic experts to do the peer review, but an overwhelming preponderance of evidence shows that Wilcox himself was permitted to do peer review. No matter one’s opinion on whether gays are human enough to deserve equal rights, the documented circumstances of Elsevier’s and James Wright’s publishing of the Regnerus paper and associated stuff has very seriously undermined the trust on which science is based.


    1. I did not see that email as indicating publication in SSR was a done deal. It’s possible, but from the content of the message it looked more like proposing to submit it there. It’s not crazy, or wrong, to speculate on the predispositions of a journal editor before deciding where to submit a paper (for example, completely hypothetically, “Send that paper to Social Forces, because Arne Kalleberg likes stuff about employment instability”). To me, that message just shows Wilcox having a big influence on the publication strategy, not anything about Wright colluding.


      1. But that e-mail goes way beyond merely suggesting that Wright “might be open to a special issue on our dataset.” Wilcox — and remember, he is on the SSR editorial board — further writes “So, down the road, I suggest we do a report AND invite a number of people from across the spectrum to contribute to a special issue in SSR on the new data.” Firstly note, we do not know for sure to whom Wilcox sent this e-mail message. UT’s Public Information Act attorney told me that this message was taken off a CD that the Texas AG sent to UT, saying this is what it must release. Apparently, the date and the recipient of Wilcox’s e-mail are not currently judged subject to release. However that may be, ask yourself — in what capacity was Wilcox writing “I suggest we do a report AND invite a number of people . . to contribute to a special issue”? Who is the “we” doing the report, and who is the “we” inviting a number of people to contribute to a special issue? Do you mean to tell me that Wilcox has authority before Wright to invite people to contribute to a special issue of SSR? Note furthermore that Wright prevaricated by publishing the audit. Apropos of the peer reviewers, the audit says “Wright turned first to two editorial board members who work on topics related to the papers.” There are no LGBT-sciences experts on the SSR editorial board. Just because one is involved in some branch of family studies does not mean that one is qualified to review a paper on gay parenting. That is akin to saying that somebody who knows nothing about Quakers, but has studied family sociology of Native Americans, is qualified to peer review a study of Quakers. Wright’s actions in using immediately locatable non-topic-expert peer reviewers flies in the face of SSR’s published peer review policy, which says that authors on esoteric topics can expect to wait months just for the editor to locate appropriate peer reviewers. Do you deny that this publishing event has undermined the trust on which science is based?


  9. Wow, Regnerus can’t even help himself and not misinform even, where it can be easily checked. Where he says in the email to another researcher that he did not know anyone from the Witherspoon Institute until recently:

    “I’m an odd pick to run this thing… I didn’t know anybody at the Witherspoon before several months ago. Basically, was a friend of a friend who introduced me. …”

    I guess he forgot that his own CV mentions not only a paper co-authored with Brad Wilcox of the Witherspoon Institute:

    Steensland, Brian, Jerry Park, Mark Regnerus, Lynn Robinson, Bradford Wilcox, and Robert Woodberry.2000. “The Measure of American Religion: Toward Improving the State of the Art.”
    Social Forces 79: 291-318.

    But also an award for it:

    Best Article Award, ASA Religion Section, 2001, for “The Measure of American Religion: TowardImproving the State of the Art” (with Brian Steensland, Jerry Park, Lynn Robinson, Brad Wilcox, andRobert Woodberry).

    Thank you for such a thorough look at this.


  10. @str8grandmother

    “Paul Amato wrote something along these lines, “Yes it is true that most of the studies showing no difference are smaller studies BUT if having same sex parents is damaging to children we would have known by now. In other words this would have already bubbled up.”

    This would depend on who is willing to participate have the same outcomes as those who don’t take part or drop out during the study. I for one wouldn’t generalize women’s behavior to hold for men as well other than in very special circumstances.


  11. This may be by the by, but I can’t really see that this should make any difference in terms of policy. I mean, suppose you could show that the children of black couples have poorer outcomes after controlling for income, etc. Would anyone say they should not be allowed to marry? So I think the question of outcomes is really just a proxy for moralistic issues.


  12. @str8grandmother

    I’m not going to show you misery since I didn’t claim it. I did a thing called reductio ad absurdum, showing the crazy consequences of my opponents position. My own position is that we need better research to know whether there will be misery or not.

    Regarding my need for education, I have already read about gay parents and noted that so many of these participating in the research have been wealthy Californian lesbians. You can’t generalize on sample like that. If you have any facts that contradict this then by all means let me know about it. But please don’t “educate” me with anecdotal stories in the media.


    1. Well which way is it Steffan? Is it this comment of yours,

      “No limit to how much misery the children are put through?”

      Or is it this comment

      “I’m not going to show you misery since I didn’t claim it.”

      I may not have a PhD but I know how to read.


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