Gay marriage foes tout conservative-backed parenting study
A dozen groups fighting against marriage equality are touting a controversial study about gay and lesbian parenting that was funded by two conservative organizations.
The study, released early last week, quickly became a political weapon in campaigns for state-level ballot measures banning same-sex marriage. Groups with close relationships to the study’s funders immediately began promoting it as evidence that children might be harmed by being raised by gays and lesbians. And some of these same groups now hope to use the study to convince courts that same-sex marriage bans are constitutional.
Conducted by sociologist Mark Regnerus at the University of Texas, the study looked at the children of families in which one biological parent had a same-sex relationship at some point. Regnerus then compared them to people who spent their entire childhood in intact opposite-sex households with both biological parents. All of those surveyed were between 18 and 39 years old when the study was conducted. Regnerus found that the children whose parents had a same-sex relationship fared poorly in comparison in a number of areas, though he was careful to note that his study did not establish that the parents’ sexual orientation caused those differences.
The study’s methodology — comparing biological intact families with families that may or may not have been intact — provoked criticism from many quarters.
Writing at Slate, Will Saletan observed that Regnerus used a “loaded classification system” that “produced predictable results.”
“These findings shouldn’t surprise us, because this isn’t a study of gay couples who decided to have kids,” wrote Saletan. “It’s a study of people who engaged in same-sex relationships—and often broke up their households—decades ago.”
He added, “What the study shows, then, is that kids from broken homes headed by gay people develop the same problems as kids from broken homes headed by straight people.”
Saletan suggested, contrary to the opinion of conservative groups, that the study might actually bolster the argument for gay marriage.
The study was funded by the Witherspoon Institute with a grant totaling $695,000. The Witherspoon Institute is a conservative think tank founded by prominent Catholic intellectuals Luis Tellez and Robert George. George, a professor at Princeton University, also sits on the board of the Bradley Foundation, which gave Regnerus another $90,000 for the study.
Groups closely connected to the Witherspoon Institute and Bradley Foundation touted the study last week as evidence that gay parenting poses risks for children, and that intact, opposite-sex couples make the best parents.
The National Organization for Marriage, which was co-founded by George, devoted five blog posts to the study the week it was released. Tellez serves on NOM’s board.*
NOM blogged about an article and an editorial on the study published by the Deseret News, which is owned by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. George serves on that paper’s “editorial advisory board.”
NOM also included a roundup of articles and editorials about the study.
NOM President Brian Brown addressed the study on Friday.
“This tells me something really important: gay marriage is not about helping children,” he wrote. “The ‘Modern Family’ we see on TV and relayed in the media is vanishingly rare. We aren’t seriously contemplating gay marriage because it will protect the children.”
State-based groups have also been promoting the study in their fight against same-sex marriage.
Minnesota for Marriage, a group campaigning for a state constitutional amendment barring same-sex marriage, said the study showed “risks” to children of same-sex couples.
“New study suggests risks from same-sex parenting. ‘…empirical claim that no notable differences exist must go,’” the group said on Twitter.
And on Facebook, the group wrote, “New, highly respected, rigorous study shows that ‘the empirical claim that no notable differences exist must go.’”
Preserve Marriage Washington, a group working to repeal Washington’s recent law making same-sex marriage legal, took to Facebook to promote the study.
“Kids are in no way better off,” Protect Marriage Washington wrote. “A new study on same-sex parenting by Mark Regnerus of the University of Texas was released yesterday.”
On Facebook, Protect Marriage Maine — which is opposing a ballot initiative that would legalize same-sex marriage — posted an infographic created by the Washington Times along with a quote from Regnerus.
NOM has close ties to all three of these state groups.
Protect Marriage Washington has hired Chris Plante, a NOM staffer, to help run the campaign in Washington, and NOM has given $208,000 to support the Minnesota for Marriage campaign. NOM joined with the Christian Civic League of Maine to form Protect Marriage Maine earlier this year.
Opponents of same-sex marriage are also planning to use the study in their efforts to defend against lawsuits challenging the constitutionality of same-sex marriage bans.
“I think it’s going to be important in the legal cases as they progress,” Gallagher told Pat Robertson’s Christian Broadcasting Network last week.
Indeed, academic studies have long been part of the legal arguments put forth by NOM and its allies. In a brief (PDF) filed two years ago defending California’s Proposition 8, a 2008 referendum that ended same-sex marriage in that state, NOM wrote, “A large body of social science research confirms the significance of marriage for child well-being, in contrast to a limited body of emerging research on gay parenting.”
Matthew J. Franck, director of Center on Religion and the Constitution at the Witherspoon Institute — the group that heavily funded Regnerus’ research — agreed that it, along with another recent study, would be a valuable asset in the courts.
“Judges and justices who reasoned in favor of same-sex marriage based on social scientists’ ‘no differences’ thesis must now contend with better research: Heterosexual married couples offer the best family structure for children, according to a new, rigorously researched sociological study,” wrote Franck. “How much does this new study matter for the legal debate over same-sex marriage? A very great deal. Same-sex marriage advocates have argued in state and federal courts that traditional marriage laws have no ‘rational basis,’ or that they fail some other more stringent form of ‘scrutiny’ under constitutional provisions guaranteeing due process and the equal protection of the laws.”
According to Franck, “As the Perry case on Prop 8, and related litigation on the Defense of Marriage Act, reach the Supreme Court, the counsels of good social science can be added to the standard norms of constitutionalism to counsel against the willful judicial invention of a right to same-sex marriage.”
“Scientifically this is huge,” she wrote.
She penned a column for the conservative Town Hall under the headline, “The Gay Murphy Brown Effect.”
Another NOM-connected group, the Love and Fidelity Network, also promoted the study.
“In this reputable and newly-released study, Sociologist Mark Regnerus reveals how children fare better across measurable indicators when they are raised in a stable intact home with their mother and their fathers, as opposed to same-sex families,” the group wrote. “Some have called it ‘the gold standard’ of research, while others might speculate the significance it has for the same-sex marriage debate.”
The Love and Fidelity Network shares an office with the Witherspoon Institute. Gallagher and George, the founders of NOM, are on the Network’s advisory board. Luis Tellez, who founded the Witherspoon Institute with George, is also on the advisory board of the Love and Fidelity Network.
For its part, the Witherspoon Institute wrote a lengthy analysis of Regnerus’ study under the headline, “The Kids Aren’t All Right: New Family Structures and the ‘No Differences’ Claim.”
The institute’s research scholar, Ana Samuel, concluded: “In particular, the NFSS provides evidence that previous generations of social scientists were unable to gather: that children from intact, biological families also out-perform peers who were raised in homes of a parent who had same-sex relationships. Therefore, these two new studies reaffirm—and strengthen—the conviction that the gold standard for raising children is still the intact, biological family.”
The Witherspoon Institute also launched a website featuring Regnerus’ data.
The use of Regnerus’ study by NOM and its allies aligns closely with the organization’s 2009 internal strategy documents that were released in court filings earlier this year.
NOM outlined what it called its “Expert Witness Project,” an effort to “identify and nurture a worldwide community of highly credentialed intellectuals and professional scholars, physicians, psychiatrists, social workers, and writers to credential our concerns and to interrupt the silencing that takes place in the academy around gay marriage and related family issues.” According to NOM, “Marriage as the union of husband and wife has deep grounding in human nature, and is supported by serious social science.”
In a video interview with the Daily Texan, Regnerus was asked about the funding behind the study.
“I had a feeling that when we started this project that it would not survive the politics, if you ask me, of the peer-review system of [the National Institutes of Health], and it takes so long to get money from them and revision and revisions,” he said. “[The Witherspoon Institute and the Bradley Foundation] were willing to take a chance on this and so I was willing to do that.”
Regnerus brushed off the suggestion that Robert George might be pleased with the study.
“Prof. George is a philosopher. I don’t think he has much to say about sampling theory. Whether he likes the study or not … I don’t have anything to do with what happens next from the left or the right.”
In the write-up of the Study, Regnerus said that “the funding sources played no role at all in the design or conduct of the study, the analyses, the interpretations of the data, or in the preparation of this manuscript.”
Other groups opposed to equal rights for LGBT Americans jumped on the study as evidence that gay and lesbian couples do not make good parents.
Focus on the Family’s Citizenlink interviewed spokespeople from within its organization.
“All the other studies that have come out on how kids do in same-sex homes are all done by lesbian activist scholars,” said Glenn Stanton, Focus on the Family’s director of Global Family Formation Studies. “They have found either there’s no difference between the two kinds of homes, or that the kids actually do better (in homosexual-led households). … Regnerus’s study shows nothing could be further from the truth.”
Stanton testified against a civil unions bill in Colorado in May, dismissing research suggesing that same-sex couples are equally good parents as opposite-sex couples: “The supposed research that shows kids from same-sex families do fine … is fraught with remarkably serious methodological problems, essentially rendering them useless in telling us anything valuable about two-mom two-dad families and their impact on child well-being.”
Gary Bauer of American Values, in an email to supporters, said, “If the left insists on fundamentally redefining the institution of marriage, the foundation of healthy families and societies, then the left bears the burden of demonstrating that it is beneficial for the children likely to be involved in this radical experiment. These new studies clearly indicate that the militant homosexual movement is a long way from meeting that standard.”
The Family Policy Institute of Washington, an affiliate of the Family Research Council, alerted its supporters to the study in an email. “The debate over redefining marriage is a question about whether there is any difference between a relationship involving a man and a woman and one with people of the same gender,” the group wrote. “A study released on Sunday, by Professor Mark Regnerus from the University of Texas, found that there was actually a dramatic difference for children raised in a married mother/father household and children raised by two parents of the same gender.”
*CORRECTION: This article originally stated incorrectly that NOM shares “several” board members with the Witherspoon Institute. In fact, NOM Chairman Emeritus and co-founder Robert George helped found the Witherspoon Institute. George is currently a Witherspoon senior fellow but does not serve on Witherspoon’s board. In addition, NOM board member Luis Tellez serves as Witherspoon’s president. The American Independent regrets the error.
Interesting discussion. Since problems of personality often only become visible after moving out of the “protecting” environment of a houshold with parents, it will only be possible to scientificaly and properly evaluate differences between being brought up by same-sex parents or a mum + dad when there are enough people in the age group of around 25 years old upwards who have been brought up in stable housholds with same-sex parents. It would also be necessary to differentiate between those who were brought up by two fathers and those brought up by two mothers.
But I believe that same-sex couples should definately not be allowed to adopt unrelated children and also surrogacy should not be allowed because same-sex couples would have to intentionally deprive such children of beautifuly loving and defining relationships with both a woman (mother) and a man (father), although children recognize the difference between feminin and masculine very well from about 6 months of age. They love the difference between their mum and their dad, love to interact with both as different expressions of the
relationship with a parent.
For us adults, whether homosexual or straight, it is a natural part of our freedom to have diverse relationships (friends, partner, family relations etc.) with both male and female persons, as we choose and feel. Only if a child has a loving father and mother, can it have a chance of not being intentionaly deprived of the same freedom from birth onwards regarding the most natural and important relationship children can have – namely that with a parent, who is nurturer, role model and friend all in one. I believe this is a matter of morality and basic human rights of children.
Men and Women and a string of Christmas Lights: Interesting thhgout here. I think it is usually true, but I don’t think it should be. 5 Surprising Ways to Improve Your Marriage in 2011: Some great ideas here. Leave A Comment 2010 Daily Generous Husband Tips. All Rights Reserved.Also see The Generous Wife and The Marriage Bed.
i think, at it’s best, facebook has the potiatenl to undo our basic assumption that our lives and our social networks are linear. there is something very healthy about a line that connects itself. one doesn’t need a meta study to comprehend how vital connection is to our sense of joy. i’m glad you are finding your own voice, anne, it’s a brilliant and beautiful voice. cameron clark
What an absolute joke. The author of the study himself acknowledges it says nothing about the how children raised by same-gender parents fare. He admits that there was only one instance of a child raised long-term by a same-gender couple included in the sample, and that the parenting outcomes for that couple were excellent. The study does substantiate the benefits of stable households when it comes to raising of children … as have many other studies … which is why it provides evidence in support of SSM. But the characterizations of the report by all these anti-gay groups are profoundly dishonest.
NOM-Regnerus ‘Gay Parenting’ Study: A One-Percenter Dirty Campaign Trick
Helen and many of the posters are assimung the marriage rate is plummeting and the birth rate is staying steady. I have no idea what is going on in Tennessee, but in my area and in many other areas the birth rate is also decreasing right along with the marriage rate. All I get from the census numbers is that fewer people are marrying (US population currently is 51.3% married vs 54.4% in 2000, more people are never-married at 30.7% vs 27.1% in 2000, and 18% are widowed, divorced or separated vs 18.5% in 2000). The biggest change is that never-married percentage against the married percentage. To make any assumptions about whether we will need more “services” would be to find out whether any of these groups are becoming richer, poorer or staying the same, what the economic status of parents, and if there are fewer children being born overall.
Well, actually we only ddeeicd on a name a month or two before I gave birth and we had no one in our surroundings that were giving birth around the same time. I did notice that telling people your choice of names causes all sorts of drama so maybe for that part we might keep it secret for baby 2. not sure.We did have ‘names we liked’ and people stole those… but now that I think back, I wouldn’t of named my child that anyway. Too common (now)
>i’ve always thoghut it was a little twilight zone that so many years after the civil rights movement, we still allowed the systematic legal persecution of a segment of our society. and the shocking arrogance of the religious reich as it fights against it who exactly do they think they are, denying basic human rights to people that are different? it just seems so surreal and sadly, it’s far from over. i would love to disagree and say i had hopes to see the nation come together over this, but unfortunately i think you’re absolutely right. it’s going to be a long fight, and the opposition is all insane, and not in that good way
The religionists wanted a study to be able to use in court, and Professor Regnerus, a research “whore”, was willing to sell them one. Although same-sex parenting is legal in all 50 states, and their is no effort to change that, the religionists have decided that using the welfare of children is their best bet in maintaining social and legal opposition to same-sex marriage. It seems to get lost that many same-sex couples have no intention of raising children. But NOM and other anti-gays have carefully crafted a message that ties marriage to child-rearing, and now need to reinforce the false notion that gay couples can’t adequately raise children.
The anti-gays are a group of seriously mentally defective people. At some point, there is something wrong with you when you go to these lengths to stop a minority group from having legal rights. I don’t care how much money you make opposing same-sex marriage, no mentally competent person can keep doing this.
this is a paid for study by a conservative gp/s that don’t deal very well with facts. They started with a premise that same sex marriage would be damaging to children when in fact, they proved what we have known all along: It is the stability of the home that makes children grow up feeling safe, secure and able to learn even make mistakes and they will still be loved. There are some very reliable reports that do indicate that a woman can’t teach a boy how to a man, and a man can’t teach a girl how to be a woman. But, there are plenty of opportunities for children to be exposed to good role models that can create the balance needed in child rearing.
“The single thing that would enlmiiate more poverty than anything else in this country would be if fathers in this country would marry the mothers of their children,” How about if mothers marry the fathers? Of course, as Zorro points out, it’s a no win situation for men to marry. Hell, paying child support, if you have to, is probably cheaper in the long run than losing half of everything and then some (because it will be more than half) when divorcing.The services provided to single parents, mothers primarily, enable no marriage. The service providers help temporarily and hurt ultimately. Plus, in the one area where it should be for the kids, liberals demand it not be.
leticia olalia morales of 15501 pasadena ave #h tustin ca 92780 submitted fake documents and 5000 dollars to a person name sandman at the US embassy in manila. she also submitted fake employment records to obtain a work visa. Her husband carlos b. morales also submitted fake documents (land titles and bank statements) to obtain a tourist visa. Her son carlo iii also used such and helped 2 other people to obtain a US tourist visa.
I find it hard to get attached to baiebs without names. My youngest godson didn’t seem real to me until he was 3 days old (his parents FINALLY agreed on Andrew), and I couldn’t get attached to my nephew until I knew his name (Carter). So I’ll be telling people the names as soon as we know. (Husband refuses to decide on a boy’s name until I’m pregnant, but we’ve talked about which names we like/dislike/most want to use, and why. His Christopher, which I don’t like, trumps my Ray, which he doesn’t mind, simply because of why he likes the name.)
“Marriage is for religious pelope, the wealthy and idiots.”Good point. It is interesting to me that some cvery conservative Christian ministers are refusing to marry pelope who get a state marriage license. I do not see how this changes the horrible legal system, as the marriages would be common law after awhile, but it is an interesting development.Trey
Personally, I’d love teh idea of “happily ever after,” but the legal construct today merley facilitates predatory behavior in the relationship, and no-fault also puts women at disadvantage (“First Wives Club”-style dumping of the woman who raised your kids because your 28 y.o. secretary doesn’t use the wrinkle cream your 55 y.o. wife does). So it cuts both ways. The divorce rate is a direct result of No-Fault.Marriage is for religious people, the wealthy and idiots. Anyone else, particularly men, is asking for an ass-raping in family court.
If you can’t afford to live apart beofre your divorce, how are you going to afford to live apart after your divorce?Alternatively, if you can live together for a year without the usual pre-divorce fighting and drama, why can’t you live together another twenty years without the usual pre-divorce fighting and drama. Once the kids are grown up and on their own, divorce might still offend them, but they have no legitimate right to object, because it’s not disrupting their lives.Simmons is an idiot. A marriage license is not a permit to screw. It’s not 20 minutes, 3 times a week, that makes a marriage work; it’s the other 167 hours a week. There are many sexless and many adulterous marriages that are highly successful.