Posts Tagged ‘Gay Marriage’

In Wake of Supreme Court Marriage Decisions, Gay-Rights Mecca Braces for Celebration

Posted on: June 26th, 2013 by Todd Heywood 16 Comments

SAN FRANCISCO – The city where the battle for marriage equality in California began in 2004 is bracing for massive celebrations in the wake of the U.S. Supreme Court’s rulings involving same-sex marriage on Wednesday.

Activists celebrate the Supreme Court rulings on same-sex marriage in San Francisco Wednesday morning, June 26, 2013 (THE AMERICAN INDEPENDENT/Todd Heywood)

Activists celebrate the Supreme Court rulings on same-sex marriage in San Francisco Wednesday morning, June 26, 2013 (THE AMERICAN INDEPENDENT/Todd Heywood)

(more…)

University of Texas professor behind controversial study wades further into gay-marriage debate

Posted on: April 10th, 2013 by Sofia Resnick 4 Comments

Gay-marriage friends and foes gather in front of U.S. Supreme Court as justices hear arguments in the U.S. v. Windsor, surrounding the Defense of Marriage Act, March 27, 2013 (THE AMERICAN INDEPENDENT/Sofia Resnick).

“You are a researcher, not an advocate. You are simply reporting on what the data tells us.”

This is the first in a long list of media-training guidelines drafted for sociologist Mark Regnerus in preparation for last year’s release of his findings of the infamous “New Family Structures Study,” a flawed, politically motivated study that suggests that children of gay parents experience more unfavorable outcomes compared to children of heterosexual, married parents.

The guidelines instructed the University of Texas at Austin associate sociology professor to focus on the science of his study and to emphasize his apolitical views. Regnerus echoed many of these talking points when his study was first released, taking pains to maintain a neutral front on the gay-marriage debate. He stated in his papers and in interviews that the study was not about gay marriage or even about gay parenting. Regnerus continues to try to appear neutral on these issues in media interviews, recently telling The New York Times’ Bill Keller that, concerning gay marriage, his study “paints the reality of people’s lives as fairly complicated.”

But Regnerus’ more recent actions indicate many of his talking points were simply that: talking points.

Since those early days, Regnerus has signed on to a “friend of the court” brief in both gay-marriage cases recently taken up by the U.S. Supreme Court, urging the court to uphold California’s ban on same-sex marriage and the federal Defense of Marriage Act. He has blogged about his skepticism regarding the health of kids raised by gay parents, and he’s signed on to speak at a National Organization for Marriage-affiliated conference dedicated to arming college-age kids with research that opposes gay marriage.

‘Points to Avoid’

As The American Independent reported last month, the Witherspoon Institute, the conservative think tank that funded the bulk of the New Family Structures Study, pushed to have the study’s results out before “major decisions of the Supreme Court,” according to documents obtained through a public records request.

Among those documents – which are still being released in chunks – is a document titled “Mark Regnerus Media Training” (attached below) which encouraged the professor to focus on the fact that his study was a large, random, nationally representative study, unlike the majority of the existing research on gay parenting. He was told to avoid politics.

The origin of this training document, which is undated, is unknown. David Ochsner, director of public affairs at the University of Texas’ College of Liberal Arts, said he did not believe the guidelines were issued by UT, and he said Regnerus told him he could not remember where they came from. Witherspoon Institute President Luis Tellez said they were not issued by the Witherspoon Institute.

Regnerus’ “key points to make” included:

  • This study does not ascribe a cause to the effects, it simply reports the data.
  • For many years, gay advocates have claimed that there are no meaningful differences between children of same-sex couples and other children. This study shows this not to be true.
  • Young adults raised in a same-sex household are [list key findings such as more likely to have considered suicide, etc.].

The training document also listed “points to avoid/hard questions.” Regnerus was encouraged, for example, to avoid stating his opinion of President Obama’s endorsement of same-sex marriage.

But if asked about his own opinion on gay marriage, he was instructed to say:

This study is not about same-sex marriage. It does not attempt to assess the differences between those gay couples who have married and those who have not. It is focused on the differences between young adults raised in a same-sex household and those raised in an [sic] intact families.

Were he to be asked about whether gay couples should be able to adopt children, Regnerus was instructed to say:

Again, I am a researcher, not an advocate. Our research finds that there are a number of significant differences between young adults raised in a same-sex household and those raised in intact families where their parents are married to each to her. I have no position on adoption, gay marriage or any other similar issue.

Were he to be asked about the Witherspoon Institute’s politics, Regnerus was told to point out that liberal organizations fund academic studies, and he was instructed to emphasize that “Witherspoon had nothing to do with the study design, or with the data analyses, or interpretations, or the publication of the study,” an oft-repeated statement that has been called into question, given that a Witherspoon fellow was heavily involved in many aspects of the study and – including recommending a journal to publish it in – while also working on the study as a paid consultant employed by the University of Texas.

Some of the same language in these crafted answers appeared in the Q&A with himself that Regnerus posted on his blog in June 2012.

Regnerus adhered to some of these guidelines in early interviews.

“I don’t have a political axe to grind,” he said in an interview last summer with UT’s student newspaper The Daily Texan. “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.”

Aligning with gay-marriage foes

But more and more, Regnerus has waded further into the gay-marriage debate.

Perhaps most tellingly, he joined the slew of activists trying to influence Supreme Court justices with his research, by signing on to a little-noticed  “friend of the court” brief filed in both cases before the court, Hollingsworth v. Perry – challenging the constitutionality of California’s Proposition 8 – and United States v. Windsor – challenging the constitutionality of the Defense of Marriage Act

The brief, signed by seven social-science professors in support of the legal teams defending Proposition 8 and the Defense of Marriage Act, argued that “compelling evidence shows that children benefit from the unique parenting contributions of both men and women” and attacked the American Psychological Association’s position that there is “no difference” in outcomes of children raised by same-sex parents versus heterosexual parents, saying that claim is based on studies that are methodically flawed.

Arguing that “there is no dispute that a biological mother and father provide, on average, an effective and proven environment for raising children,” the brief’s authors concluded that, “The State of California and the federal government thus have a rational interest in supporting that proven parenting structure by reserving the title and status of marriage to unions comprised of a man and a woman.”

Among the many scholarly articles referenced in this brief are both articles Regnerus wrote on the New Family Structures Study for Social Science Research and another article he co-wrote related to the influence of parent-child relationships on teens’ virginity status, published in the Journal of Family Issues in 2006.

The brief addressed the major criticisms hurled at the New Family Structures Study, among them that the study wrongly compared intact heterosexual families to families that experienced breakups and transitions but were classified as same-sex households because a child had reported that at some point his or her parent had experienced a same-sex romantic relationship. The brief’s authors challenged this criticism by suggesting that same-sex relationships are by their nature unstable.

“[T]he fact that most of the same-sex households were at some point unstable raises the question of whether stable same-sex households were genuinely undercounted in the study, or whether same-sex relationships were more short-lived,” the brief’s authors wrote. “The last scenario is possible, if not probable, given other research on the comparative volatility of lesbian relationships.”

Along with Regnerus, the brief was signed by Simon Fraser University economics professor Douglas W. Allen, Penn State University associate sociology professor David J. Eggebeen, Brigham Young University family life professor Alan J. Hawkins, Baylor University social-sciences professor Byron R. Johnson, Ava Maria University assistant economics professor Catherine Pakuluk, and Brigham Young University assistant economics professor Joseph Price.

The sociologists’ brief was directly challenged in an amicus brief filed in late February by the American Sociological Association, Regnerus’ professional organization. In that brief, authors argued that Regnerus’ data did not support his paper’s conclusions and addressed the brief’s attacks on studies that have found no differences among outcomes of children raised by straight parents versus children raised by gay parents.

Just a few days before the Supreme Court heard arguments in the same-sex-marriage cases, Regnerus blogged about the American Academy of Pediatrics’ recent endorsement of gay marriage, writing that the few population-based studies on gay parenting – presumably including his own – “seem to foster skepticism about moving quickly or universally to deny children their right to a mom and a dad.”

“The science on same-sex parenting remains comparatively new, unable to keep up with political and legal developments,” he wrote. “But those few population-based studies that exist — that map what’s going on across the country — seem to foster skepticism about moving quickly or universally to deny children their right to a mom and a dad. It’s not a popular position, of course. In the end, we all want children to thrive. Many organizations and scholars assert that same-sex marriage is a step toward that end, ensuring household stability. Others remain skeptical, and wonder whether this isn’t more about parents’ wishes than those of children.”

Additionally, Regnerus is listed as one of the featured speakers at the summer’s It Takes a Family to Raise a Village conference in San Diego, sponsored by the Ruth Institute. Former George Mason University economics professor Jennifer Roback Morse founded the Ruth Institute in 2008 and was a prominent supporter of California’s gay marriage ban. Her group, which became affiliated with the National Organization for Marriage in 2009, has frequently been called out by LGBT-rights groups and bloggers for promoting anti-gay rhetoric and so-called “ex-gay” therapy.

Carlos Maza, a researcher at Equality Matters, an LGBT-focused initiative of Media Matters for America, attended last year’s It Takes a Family conference undercover and caught on tape speakers referencing Regnerus’ study to support attacks on gay people raising children. Jenet Jacob Erickson, an assistant professor at Brigham Young University’s School of Family Life, was recorded citing the study in support of the claim that same-sex relationships are “dysfunctional and erratic and not stable.”

Regnerus did not respond to requests for comment.

The Ruth Institute and the National Organization for Marriage are among the Witherspoon Institute’s many allied organizations – several of which share founders, board members, and resources – that have helped the New Family Structures Study fulfill its purpose: to challenge the increasingly popular belief among the mainstream social science community that kids raised by gay parents turn out fine. At least from the Witherspoon Institute’s perspective, the study’s ultimate purpose was to provide the court with evidence that banning gay marriage is in the public’s interest, based on the reasoning that heterosexual family structures are superior.

Already, the study has had this effect, at least for one justice on the Supreme Court.

Arguing before the court in defense of California’s gay-marriage ban, attorney Charles Cooper appeared to be struggling to come up with reasons why gay marriage harms or denigrates “traditional opposite-sex marriage couples.” Justice Antonin Scalia, known for his politically conservative views, interjected – bringing up kids, and sociology.

“Mr. Cooper, let me — let me give you one — one concrete thing,” Scalia said. “I don’t know why you don’t mention some concrete things. If you redefine marriage to include same-sex couples, you must — you must permit adoption by same-sex couples, and there’s -­ there’s considerable disagreement among — among sociologists as to what the consequences of raising a child in a — in a single-sex family, whether that is harmful to the child or not. Some States do not — do not permit adoption by same-sex couples for that reason. … I don’t think we know the answer to that. Do you know the answer to that, whether it – whether it harms or helps the child?”

“No, Your Honor. And there’s – there’s –” Cooper responded.

“But that’s a possible deleterious effect, isn’t it?” Scalia said. He later added, “I take no position on whether it’s harmful or not, but it is certainly true that — that there’s no scientific answer to that question at this point in time.”

Cooper did not directly answer the question, but he agreed with Scalia’s point – and argued that the plaintiffs have to prove that gay marriage will cause no harm to straight married couples. Not only that, but he said plaintiffs have to prove that “that it’s beyond debate that there will be no harm.”

On the same day the Supreme Court heard arguments in the Proposition 8 case, gay-marriage foes gathered at the National Mall for a rally organized by the National Organization of Marriage. Organizers passed out brochures titled “What You Need to Know about Marriage: Questions & Answers Driving the Debate.” In addition to NOM, the brochure’s listed sponsors included the Alliance Defending Freedom, the Family Research Council, and the Heritage Foundation, all social conservative groups based in Washington, D.C.

The first “consequence[] of redefining marriage” listed in the brochure is that, “Redefining marriage would hurt children. Decades of social science – including very recent and robust studies – show that children do better when raised by a married mom and dad.”

The endnotes cited Regnerus’ New Family Structures Study findings to support this claim.

Got tips? Email them to Sofia[at]americanindependent.com.

Mark Regnerus Media Training

Goal of UT parenting study was to influence SCOTUS decisions on gay marriage, docs show

Posted on: March 11th, 2013 by Sofia Resnick 4 Comments

UPDATE: This article has been updated to reflect a correction.

The conservative funders who bankrolled a flawed and widely cited academic study that’s critical of gay parenting* choreographed its release in time to influence “major decisions of the Supreme Court,” documents show. (more…)

AUDIO: National Organization for Marriage wants Starbucks to pay ‘price’ in Middle East

Posted on: November 9th, 2012 by Sofia Resnick 29 Comments

Screenshot of invitation to a conference call held by the National Organization for Marriage Nov. 8, 2012.

The National Organization for Marriage is pledging to continue its efforts to ensure that companies that back same-sex marriage pay a “price” in Middle Eastern countries that are hostile to gay rights. (more…)

Witherspoon scholar was ‘paid consultant’ on parenting study

Posted on: October 3rd, 2012 by Sofia Resnick 9 Comments

When University of Texas professor Mark Regnerus released a study this summer portraying gay parents in a negative light, he insisted that the conservative funders who backed the research had no involvement in how it was designed, implemented, or interpreted.

But recently emerging evidence shows that a scholar affiliated at the time with the Witherspoon Institute — the socially conservative think tank that supplied the bulk of Regnerus’ funding — did indeed play a role carrying out and analyzing the study.

In his peer-reviewed article, Regnerus said his research revealed different — and often unfavorable — outcomes for children of gay parents when compared to children raised by a mother and father in biologically intact families. Opponents of gay marriage immediately seized Regnerus’ initial findings from the ongoing “New Family Structures Study,” published in the July issue of Social Science Research. The study has been cited in court briefs to defend the constitutionality of the Defense of Marriage Act and by a federal judge in a decision upholding Hawaii’s ban on same-sex marriage. Opponents of marriage equality have also used it in state-level ballot-measure campaigns.

Right away, Regnerus’ findings sparked a backlash, as critics said his study was methodologically flawed. Many have argued that Regnerus’ actual comparisons — children raised in households with two biological parents compared to children raised in families where one parent had a same-sex relationship at some point, regardless of whether the child lived with that parent — did not correspond with his conclusions.

The research has also provoked questions, especially from gay-rights advocates, about whether the Witherspoon Institute – some of whose leaders have ties to the National Organization for Marriage and other groups that advocate against gay marriage – influenced the study’s design. Both Regnerus and Witherspoon have denied this charge.

It turns out that from 2010 to 2012, one of the study’s paid consultants was William Bradford Wilcox. For much of that time, Wilcox was also the director of Witherspoon’s “Program on Family, Marriage, and Democracy,” the program from which Regnerus’ study was born.

Much of the new evidence regarding Wilcox’s involvement was unearthed by New Civil Rights Movement blogger Scott Rose.

Wilcox is a conservative scholar and associate professor of sociology at the University of Virginia at Charlottesville, where since 2009 he has directed the National Marriage Project, whose stated mission is “to provide research and analysis on the health of marriage in America, to analyze the social and cultural forces shaping contemporary marriage, and to identify strategies to increase marital quality and stability.” Among his many affiliations, Wilcox is on the Board of Advisory Editors of Social Science Research, which published Regnerus’ study.

Up until Oct. 2, the Witherspoon Institute’s website identified Wilcox as the director of the Witherspoon’s Program on Family, Marriage, and Democracy (referred to in this case as the “Program on Marriage, Family, and Democracy.”) That link is now defunct. The Witherspoon’s tax form from 2010 describes the launch of the “New Family Structures Study” as one of the year’s main achievements of the Program on Family, Marriage, and Democracy.

Back in June, Rose filed a complaint with the University of Texas, accusing Regnerus of scientific misconduct concerning his study. As a matter of protocol, the university conducted an initial investigation and concluded in late August that “no formal investigation is warranted.” The university used that investigation as a reason for not disclosing to The American Independent any documents related to the Regnerus’ study. Now that the investigation is over, the university is trying to prevent disclosure by arguing that the information related to the study is proprietary.

In response to a public records request from Rose for communications between Regnerus and Wilcox concerning the study, the university’s counsel asked Texas’ attorney general to allow the university to withhold those documents. Rose provided TAI with a copy of the letter, which says that “Professors Regnerus and Wilcox collaborated on the data collection and analysis that formed the basis of Dr. Regnerus’s publication” on the New Family Structures Study.

The responsive documents include email exchanges between the University’s Professor Mark Regnerus and a colleague, W. Bradford Wilcox, from the University of Virginia (TAB 6). The communications pertain to scientific research conducted by Dr. Regnerus and published in his New Family Structures Study. Professors Regnerus and Wilcox collaborated on the data collection and analysis that formed the basis of Dr. Regnerus’s publication, thus, their communications reveal substantive analytical and scientific data that is protected from disclosure under Section 51.914, Texas Education Code. To release this information would facilitate third party appropriation of Dr. Regnerus’s intellectual property.

In an employment authorization form obtained by TAI from the University of Texas, Wilcox’s role in Regnerus’ project is described this way: “Dr. Brad Wilcox will provide consulting work for Dr. Mark Regnerus on his New Family Structure Study. He will be assisting with data analysis. This is sporadic work throughout the spring semester and summer.” Rose has also reported on this form.

The form, dated April 24, 2012, indicates that Wilcox was to be paid $2,000 for his services from April through August, 2012, and notes that Wilcox has “worked with Dr. Regnerus on data analysis and structure in the past.”

‘Provided input to Professor Mark Regnerus’

From the beginning, Regnerus and the Witherspoon Institute have said Witherspoon had nothing to do with how the study was designed or implemented — other than providing roughly $700,000 for Regnerus to carry out the work.

In his initial article on his findings, Regnerus wrote: “The NFSS was supported in part by grants from the Witherspoon Institute and the Bradley Foundation. While both of these are commonly known for their support of conservative causes—just as other private foundations are known for supporting more liberal causes—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.”

And the Witherspoon Institute, on its website promoting the study, states: “In order to insure that the NFSS was conducted with intellectual integrity, beginning from the earliest stages the Witherspoon Institute was not involved in the Study’s design, implementation, or interpretation.”

Wilcox, Regnerus, and the Witherspoon Institute have all stood by previous statements that the Witherspoon was never involved in how Regnerus’ study was designed or implemented.

Witherspoon President Luis Tellez told TAI in an email exchange this week that Wilcox was a fellow for Witherspoon from 2004 until the summer or fall of 2011 but that Wilcox was never a staff member at Witherspoon. Tellez confirmed that Wilcox served as the director of the Witherspoon’s Program on Family, Marriage, and Democracy, while the New Family Structure Study was being developed, but he said Wilcox exited that position “when the NFSS was entering the period of implementation i.e. the survey was about to be fielded.”

“In his capacity of director of the program in Family, Marriage and Democracy Prof. Wilcox offered advice and assistance in various family related events or projects that the Witherspoon Institute decided to undertake,” Tellez said. “Never did Prof. Wilcox represent in any way the Witherspoon Institute when dealing with other scholars or the public. Prof. Wilcox, like any other fellow of the Institute, never was involved in the decision making of the Witherspoon Institute. More specifically, he was never involved in any decision making at the Witherspoon Institute in matters related to the New Family Structure Study.”

According to Tellez, Wilcox did not advise the Witherspoon Institute on matters relating to “the scope of the study, how it is to be conducted and how to interpret the results.”

But Wilcox was involved in the process that led to the study’s creation, Tellez said.

“His role was to help assemble an initial group of scholars, Mark Regnerus included, out of which came the idea of the NFSS,” Tellez said.

Tellez said Wilcox did not use his role at Witherspoon to pressure Regnerus to conduct his study in any specific way.

“Wilcox participation in the NFSS was of course known to Witherspoon, at no point however he used his role in the NFSS or his connection to WI to convey any sentiments or wishes as to how the NFSS was being conducted or convey desired outcomes, etc.,” Tellez said. “The only sentiments that were conveyed, and this were conveyed primarily to Mark, was to be sure the study was conducted in the most professional manner, that scholars from the ideological spectrum be included, to respect the findings whatever they were, etc. I said primarily conveyed to Regnerus, but because I knew Wilcox longer and had confidence in his professional integrity, I would inquire with him occasionally as to whether this standards were being applied. Just to be sure all was well.”

After TAI questioned Wilcox about his roles at the Witherspoon Institute and as a paid consultant on the study, Wilcox published a blog post on FamilyScholars.org Tuesday night, which he said was in response to questions asked by fellow FamilyScholars blogger Barry Deutsch. In the post, Wilcox downplayed his title as Witherspoon’s director of the Program on Family, Marriage, and Democracy as “honorific.” He said that from October 2010 to April 2012, he “provided input to Professor Mark Regnerus about the design, analysis, and interpretation of the survey data associated with the NFSS,” but he emphasized that he did not make “funding or programmatic decisions at” Witherspoon. He also noted that he was among “a dozen paid academic consultants” who worked with Regnerus on the project.

“I viewed my consultation for the NFSS as collegial, that is, as providing academic advice that Regnerus was free to take or ignore (and he took some advice, and went his own way on other matters). I was not acting in an official Witherspoon capacity in relationship to him,” Wilcox wrote.

Regnerus also told TAI in a phone interview that he never viewed Wilcox as a “Witherspoon agent.”

“He never acted as a Witherspoon mouthpiece,” Regnerus said. “As a consultant he did not represent Witherspoon.”

Responding to Wilcox’s post, Deutsch wrote Wednesday that Wilcox’s dual role at the Witherspoon and as a paid consultant on the study should have been disclosed, and that the omission was deceptive.

“There is nothing unethical about Brad working with both NFSS and Witherspoon, in my opinion,” he wrote. “Brad is a known scholar with interests similar to those of Witherspoon and Professor Regnerus; it is natural that both the staff at Witherspoon and Professor Regnerus should seek his advice.”

But, he added: “In my opinion, Professor Regnerus’ carefully-crafted statement about his funding sources’ non-participation was deceptive. It omitted a relationship that was obviously relevant and should have been mentioned, and Regnerus’ choice to omit that, and the use of wording which gave the impression that there was unequivocally no relationship to report, calls his credibility into question.”

 

Controversial parenting study reaches the courts

Posted on: July 11th, 2012 by Sofia Resnick 1 Comment

Just one day after the results of a controversial parenting study were released to the public, the research was used – and misrepresented – in a federal court brief defending the constitutionality of the Defense of Marriage Act. (more…)

Is NOM acting right?

Posted on: May 17th, 2012 by Sofia Resnick 1 Comment
“NOM is not a partisan organization or a stalking horse for either party,” wrote National Organization for Marriage President Brian Brown in March. “We are a movement of people of every race, creed, color — and party — willing to stand up for marriage.”

(more…)

Colorado civil unions supporters argue proposed bill embraces GOP values

Posted on: February 21st, 2012 by The American Independent 1 Comment

At a Colorado Senate committee hearing on a same-sex civil unions bill last Wednesday, a series of witnesses battered Republican lawmakers opposed to the bill, suggesting they were confused in their ideology, non-strategic in their thinking, and enslaved to an outdated anti-gay “hateful bigoted mantra.” The harsh criticism came not from Democrats and their allies but from Republicans testifying in favor of the bill on the basis of conservative principles and out of partisan interest in the future success of the party. (more…)