That time when your research is used to justify ripping a baby from the arms of its loving adoptive parents

UPDATE: Judge Johansen has rescinded his order

Brad Wilcox and Mark Regnerus lost in their attempt to turn the federal courts against marriage equality. The work they did culminated in a paper published under Regnerus’s name, and Regnerus is the name most associated with its bogusness, but it was Wilcox who led the effort to raise the money (some of which he kept), helped direct the study, and weaseled it into the journal by serving as a peer reviewer for its publication. (Two subsequent studies reanalyzed the Wilcox/Regnerus data, and thoroughly debunked its results — here and here; you can get the full story by following the links in this post.)

Although they failed in their quest to affect the Supreme Court, their work lives on in the very small, evil minds of anti-gay fanatics around the world, who continuously cite the original paper. One of those men is Judge Scott Johansen, a juvenile court judge in Carbon County, Utah (the state’s seventh district), who has cited unspecified “research” to justify his decision to take a one-year-old baby from the home of Beckie Peirce and April Hoagland, a married lesbian couple who are the child’s foster parents. With the approval of the baby’s biological mother and child welfare authorities — who did the routine thorough investigation and vetting that all adoptive parents (including me) have endured — the two were moving ahead with plans to legally adopt the baby when Johansen, a law graduate of the Mormon Brigham Young University, handed down his decision. The decision is set to take effect next Tuesday (November 17). His decision is not public, but he told the couple his own research showed it was better for children to be raised by a heterosexual couple. We don’t need to ask what research he has in mind.

Legal efforts continue, and officials — including the governor of Utah — have asked the judge to reconsider.

If your research was used like this, what would you do?

So, this is the point of all the work Wilcox and Regnerus did. We must assume they wanted exactly this decision, but on a much larger scale; they wanted same-sex couples to be denied the right to adopt children, and children to be denied the right to have married gay and lesbian parents. They would apparently rather see a one-year-old child who has spent three months with a loving family ripped from that family rather than face the fate of having lesbian parents.

If I’m wrong, and I would be especially happy to be wrong in this case, then Wilcox and Regnerus should be the first experts lining up to convince Judge Johansen that he’s making a mistake, that the actual well-being of the child, and the civil rights of its parents, should come before slavish devotion to religious dogma. In fact, speaking up right now might actually do some good.

Wilcox has gone out of his way to sing the praises of the “deep normative and religious commitments to marriage and to raising children within marriage” in Utah specifically. But he doesn’t comment on this aspect of Utah’s holiness — the deep commitment that has led the Mormon church to announce a wretched, hateful policy under which it will not bless or baptize the children of gay and lesbian couples unless they denounce their parents.

Now might be a good time for Wilcox’s sham Institute for Family Studies — which has yet to ever use the words “lesbian,” “gay,” or “homosexual” on its web pages — to break its silence and take a stand for children and family well-being.

I’ll be holding my breath.

7 thoughts on “That time when your research is used to justify ripping a baby from the arms of its loving adoptive parents

  1. Love is love whether it be between a man and a man, a woman and another woman or children whose parents are in same sex marriage. In Ireland we recently voted yes for same sex marriage. I was so happy for my country, we were stepping away from the strangle hold of the church and into the light of the modern world. Yet there are those who still have a problem with gay people. They think there is something wrong with them, someone might feel they are an embarrassment at a funeral or a christening. Now gay people feel they shouldn`t put up with it anymore. They don`t have to, 70% of the population voted yes for gay marriage. They shouldn`t and it is sad that gay people had for so long.

    The character Linda in my book The Golden Age Dawns reflects this kind of alienation. She has no partner, she rarely sees her friends because their all married. She feels alone and that nobody understands her. She struggles to understand herself. She feels very much alone and isolated. As she begins to accept herself others begin to accept her and she does`nt care what other people think of her.

    These people that persecute gay people in whatever way tend to use religion as an excuse for their behaviour. I know gay people that are shining examples of love and goodness. If the persecutors of gay people were half as kind as some I have known we would live in a better world.
    Good on you for writing this article.

    Visit my site for more of my thoughts.


  2. Well-stated. This is clearly a case of the judiciary inserting religion into the role of the state, and establishing theocratic rule. The Mormon Church now rules that children in same-sex marriages cannot be baptized and go to heaven. A (presumably Mormon) judge decides it is now in the best interest of children to not be raised in same-sex marriages. The judge cites refuted religious propagandist research in making his ruling. How is this different from the “feared Sharia Law” thesis, beyond the Islam v. Christian issue regarding who is the preferred prophet?


  3. “How is this different from the “feared Sharia Law”” – well Salafists would throw the couple from a roof to their death. Other Islamic traditions include stoning to death. But yeah, otherwise identical.


  4. Thank you. I was just saying to Brian Powell that the media is saying the APA finds no evidence that children fare worse with same than estero parents. Where are the sociologists, I asked! Thank you for writing this.

    Robin Simon


  5. The judge has only temporarily withdrawn his previous order pending an evidentiary hearing yet to be scheduled. It is unclear if he has buckled under intense political pressure from the not very gay friendly governor. This judge has a history of bizarre and erratic decisions so the matter is far from resolved…


  6. There is a new editor to the Journal the Published the Regnerus “study.” The people in the ASA Family sections throuout the country should ask the new Editor to retract the paper. It was NOT independently peer reviewed. 2 out of 3 Reviewers were also paid consultants to the study. Now two new studies using the same data show Regnerus to be wrong.

    It is STILL used around the world as justification to deny sexual minorities equal civil rights, and it is a wrong study, it should be retracted. Only Sociologists can make this appeal to the Editor.

    I just read the Trial Transcript of a Federal Court case in Mississippi. Mississippi has a law on the books that says that two people of the same gender may not adopt children. Dr Brian Powell, co-author along with Dr. Simon Cheng of the recently Published study that Dr. Cohen links to, Dr Powell testified as an Expert Witness. When Dr Powell was cross examined by the defendants attorney one of the early questions he was asked is if the Regnerus study was retracted. Dr Powell answered that it has not been retracted. It should be! The Regnerus study should be retracted. It is continuing to be used against sexual minorities AND THEIR CHILDREN. It did NOT have independent peer review, peer review was rigged. Is there not ANY Sociological Organization that will request retraction of the new Editor?


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