The Mormon Church, via its wholly-owned Salt Lake City-based newspaper business, the Deseret News, was the first to announce and publicly applaud an anti-gay and — in our opinion — methodologically-challenged, soon-to-be-published paper, titled, “How Different are the Adult Children of Parents Who Have Same-Sex Relationships?,” that claims children of gay parents are not as emotionally and physically healthy or successful as their peers raised in intact biological (read: heterosexual) families. Robert P. George, co-founder and chairman emeritus of NOM, the National Organization For Marriage, is on the editorial advisory board of the Deseret News.
Leave it to the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints — the people who funded California’s same-sex marriage-banning Prop 8 — to not only be the first to publish an article on the anti-gay paper, but to even publish a companion editorial, exactly just two minutes after they published the “news” article.
In, “In our opinion: Family structure counts,” an extensive editorial that accompanies the news article, “Studies challenge widely held assumptions about same-sex parenting,” the Deseret News heralds the new paper, and, as the editorial’s title suggests, states, “the evidence is clear that the structure setting the standard for child well-being is the intact married biological family.”
At issue is a new “study,” funded by private conservative think tanks to the tune of more than three-quarters of a million dollars, and written by Mark Regnerus, associate professor of sociology at University of Texas Austin’s Population Research Center.
Regnerus has also co-authored a book the purports to “provide the fullest portrait of heterosexuality among young adults ever produced.” Wow. Pretty big claim, especially for an associate professor of sociology.
In an April New York Times op-ed, Regnerus wrote:
Although New York may witness a brief rush to the altar — or rather, the courthouse — the new law will hardly make a demographic dent in the share of New Yorkers, much less Americans, who have tied the knot. Indeed, recent Census data indicate that less than half of American households are headed by married couples.
And that social fact, given the contribution of marriage to the common good, is a moral hazard in the making. When fewer of us marry and have families, more of us become dependent on the generosity of unrelated others. And given natural limits to neighborly kindness, it means more of us must rely on the state. (Yes, the one with the $14 trillion debt.)
Of course, without even mentioning same-sex marriage, Regnerus attacked it. Unsurprisingly, the New York Times’ readers left comments that shot down Regenerus’ theories with far more insight than the Texas associate professor offered himself.
In 2010, Regnerus, lamenting a Pew study, wrote:
However, most young Americans—and certainly the vast majority of Christians—still want to marry, and they don’t want to settle. But when I study how young Americans form their romantic relationships, Christians included, I’ve come to the conclusion that while lots of them may want to marry, they just won’t get there from here. There are emerging barriers that are making marriage rarer.
Since what they hope for—chastity in a spouse—is becoming increasingly rare, the average Christian is spending more time on the marriage market (and making more sexual compromises along the way) than in previous generations. A recent study estimate suggests that the average evangelical marries somewhere around age 26 or 27, not much younger than the national average. But as I’ve noted elsewhere, steering clear of sex during this most fertile and virile period of the life course is both difficult and increasingly uncommon. Some of the blame lies not with their flight from marriage, but their simple delay of it. But as they delay it, their attitudes are changing. Many young adult Christians are making their peace with premarital sex—some because they wish to, others because they feel they have little choice.
Yes, that was 2010 — not 1910, or 1810.
And consider this. In February — of this year — Tennessee’s Bryan College newspaper reported:
Regnerus spoke at Bryan as a part of a week and a half chapel theme titled “Sex, Singleness and Marriage.” His first talk, “What If We Don’t Kiss Dating Goodbye?” began an uproar of conversations still continuing among the student body.
Regnerus is the associate professor of sociology at the University of Texas at Austin, and he holds three degrees in sociology from Trinity Christian College and the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.
He approaches his topics from the standpoint of a social scientist with statistics and facts, addressing the status quo of a society driven by the “economy of sex.” In chapel Monday (Feb. 6) he spoke of how young people easily become frustrated in their efforts to remain physically pure before marriage because the “price” of sex is so cheap in modern culture.
And in March, the same paper noted:
Mark Regnerus (who has recently become a member of the Roman Catholic Church) spoke a little bit about this in chapel a while back. His argument was along these lines: perhaps marriage is a separate institution altogether, distinct from the state and the Church. It is a spiritual establishment, a bequest that, by its nature, can only be bestowed within a Godly context. If this is, indeed, the case (and I’m convinced), then neither the state nor the Church has more authority to join two persons in holy matrimony than the Office of Student Life… and I think the Church understands this (or should)—and that is why everyone should relax. Marriage transcends social characterizations.
Clearly, this researcher has an agenda. A very religious agenda.
So it should come as no surprise that Regnerus’ paper, which no doubt the Tony Perkins, Bryan Fischers, and Maggie Gallaghers are already dancing for joy over, has a point of view.
The paper itself supposedly finds that adult children of parents who have had same-sex relationships are “different,” and suggests those differences are not good.
In “How Different are the Adult Children of Parents Who Have Same-Sex Relationships?,” Regnerus, making assumptions, concludes “that children appear most apt to succeed well as adults—on multiple counts and across a variety of domains—when they spend their entire childhood with their married mother and father, and especially when the parents remain married to the present day. Insofar as the share of intact, biological mother/father families continues to shrink in the United States, as it has, this portends growing challenges within families, but also heightened dependence on public health organizations, federal and state public assistance, psychotherapeutic resources, substance use programs, and the criminal justice system.”
We’ll examine the study itself later in a separate piece. For now suffice it to say, in our opinion, the Regnerus’ work is flawed, the methodology itself questionable, and the data presentation is irresponsible.
For now, what’s important to know is the religious right is not sitting still, and after losing their top antigay study earlier this year when its author renounced it, they’ll only be all too happy to find the next flawed research to hitch their wagons to.
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