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Gay Parenting: After The Regnerus Debacle, Where Are The Apologies?

by Zinnia Jones on July 31, 2012

in Bigotry Watch,Discrimination,News,Politics,Zinnia Jones

Post image for Gay Parenting: After The Regnerus Debacle, Where Are The Apologies?

Now that an internal audit at Social Science Research has confirmed that the Mark Regnerus (image, left,) “gay parenting” study was indeed so badly flawed it never should have survived peer review, it’s safe to say that we can move past examining the specifics of how it went wrong, and start looking at the deeper question of why so many in the media and the right wing readily accepted its conclusions with little critical scrutiny while dismissing the valid concerns raised by others. Given that their hailing of the study as a revelation about the supposed inferiority of same-sex parents was actually based on a paper that should have been immediately disqualified from publication, are they prepared to correct the record?

What many of them described as a paper about “gay parenting” covered barely a handful of respondents who had lived with same-sex couples as parents for an appreciable fraction of their childhood, far too few to be representative of the true proficiency of same-sex parents. This is not merely a matter of partisan political opinion – Regnerus himself acknowledged these shortcomings. Are these reporters and activists willing to admit they were wrong?

Where is the apology from Maggie Gallagher, who wrote that the Regnerus study is “the best gay-parenting study we have to date” and shows that “the ideal for a child is a married mom and dad,” when the study’s “gay fathers” and “lesbian mothers” groups were actually packed with as many unstable families as possible?

Where is the apology from William Saletan of Slate, who decried legitimate criticism of the study’s faulty conclusions as part of a “liberal war on science”?

Where is the apology from Ed Whelan of the National Review, who described all other studies on same-sex parenting as “schlock social science” compared to the Regnerus study, and claimed that the new study discredits “the junk social science that so many proponents of same-sex marriage propagate,” even as he admitted that he doesn’t “regard Regnerus’s study as authoritatively and definitively settling much of anything”?

Where is the apology from Mona Charen, who claimed the study showed that “same-sex households provide children with the least stability”, when the study actually included hardly any actual households with same-sex parents?

Where is the apology from the Deseret News, which also erroneously claimed that the study’s results reflect “children growing up in lesbian households” – and then, ironically, called for “healthy skepticism for so-called consensus findings, especially with regard to hot-button social issues where the biases of researchers might influence design and interpretation”?

Where is the apology from Peter Sprigg of the Family Research Council, who uncritically repeated the study’s methodological sleight-of-hand of defining a child of “homosexual parents” as having at least one parent who ever had a same-sex relationship?

Where is the apology from Bryan Fischer of the American Family Association, who cited the study’s clearly insufficient data to demand that gay parents should be denied custody of their children?

Where is the apology from the American College of Pediatricians, a non-authoritative anti-gay group which cited the Regnerus study in an amicus brief in a federal case against the Defense of Marriage Act and again falsely claimed that it was about “children raised by same-sex couples”?

Where is the apology from political strategist Frank Schubert, who claimed that the study’s results warrant banning same-sex marriage?

Where is the apology from Christian Smith, who glossed over the study’s flaws and instead dismissed criticism of its shortcomings as “an academic auto-da-fé” against Regnerus?

Where is the apology from the 18 social scientists who claimed that “much of the public criticism Regnerus has received is unwarranted” and misleadingly described it as a “study on same-sex parenting”? (And if you’re impressed by that number, note that 200 researchers signed a letter which raised concerns about “the academic integrity of the peer review process for this paper as well as its intellectual merit”.)

We can keep going all day. I realize not everyone has an education in social science – I certainly don’t. But the mistakes of the Regnerus study are easily understandable by the layperson, and those in the media whose job it is to report on this have an obligation to do so accurately in the course of informing the public. Here, many of them have failed, and because of their lack of diligence, they’ve unjustly impugned parents like me and my partner in the minds of millions. They are responsible for that. Does this not warrant an apology? Can they admit that they were wrong, that these criticisms of the study’s structure and conclusions were indeed valid, and that they failed to recognize this? Or do they just not do this anymore?


Zinnia Jones is an atheist activist, writer, and video blogger focusing on LGBTQ rights and religious belief. Originally from Chicago, she’s currently living in Florida with her partner Heather and their two children.

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JeffreyRO5 July 31, 2012 at 6:51 pm

There is now an article in the Chicago Tribune that STILL supports the Regnerus study, and touts how it improves on all previous studies! When is this going to end???

Serenifly July 31, 2012 at 8:45 pm

It isn't going to end. The study is out there and that was the whole point. The anti-gay industry is still quoting 10-20 year old ex-gay studies that have since been disavowed by their authors. So even if Regnerus retracts it (which won't happen), his friends will still quote it and hope that the readers won't do their own research about its background.

Scott_Rose August 4, 2012 at 11:35 pm

Hello: Please consider signing and sharing this petition. The petition demands that the Editorial Board of the journal Social Science Research retract the notorious, invalid, defamatory, anti-gay Regnerus gay-parenting “study.” According to the journal’s own Peer Review Policy, it takes MONTHS for the editor to locate experts to carry out peer review of submissions on esoteric topics like gay parenting. But, SSR’s editor James Wright did NOT get topic experts, the BIGOTS he had do the peer review had CONFLICTS OF INTEREST, and Regnerus’s submission was accepted for publication in only 5 ½ weeks, LESS TIME than the journal usually spends just to LOCATE expert peer reviewers. Be sure to read the full petition text inside the petition at this link:

Str8Grandmother July 31, 2012 at 6:55 pm

Wow! GREAT article. I have bookmarked it. Yes the Regnerus paper especially went after Lesbian Mothers. And without the data to back up his claims.

Let me put this in perspective, the Regnerus study is the equivalent of doing a study on Catholic parenting and he counted as Catholic anyone who their now adult children remembered their parents had visited a Catholic Church once in their lives.

ivegoneswimming August 1, 2012 at 5:21 am

i really think following this up would be a worthwhile thing to do. will the you be sending private or open letters requesting public apologies? i hope so! x

Qwerty50 August 1, 2012 at 9:06 am

For some odd reason, I don't think we are going to see apologies from any of the pundits you listed. The harm has been done, the horse has left the barn, etc. What motivation would they have to apologize? Because it's the right and moral thing to do? Because it would demonstrate integrity? Please! Look at how many apologies we've seen regarding mis-use of Spitzer's study on reparative therapy, with the exception of the author's apology… At last count, I believe the count was still zero.

Scott_Rose August 1, 2012 at 4:41 pm

Zinnia of course has raised excellent rhetorical questions. Yet, even more important than "apologizing" for the invalid and defamatory Regnerus hack job, authorities who improperly enabled it now must take responsible actions. The editors of the journal that published Regnerus's anti-gay hate speech, James Wright and Darren Sherkat of Elsevier's journal Social Science Research, must retract the study from publication and, if they want to re-publish it, put it through legitimate peer review, with the peers expert in gay parenting, and with none of them having conflicts of interest. Wright's and Sherkat's journal SSR is benefiting from all the downloading and citing of Regnerus's "study," in, among other ways, the journal's enhanced "impact factor." The impact factor is a measure of a journal's impact and it is published independently of any assessment of the journal's studies' scientific merit. Thus, Wright and Sherkat are improperly benefiting from a study certified as invalid, and which was only published due to improper and unethical peer review. Then, there is the University of Texas at Austin, which placed press releases and advertorials for Regnerus's "study," even though the study makes no valid comparison between its test groups and its control groups. Many sixth grade science classes teach the importance of a valid comparison between a study/experiment's test group and control group. At present, UT appears indifferent to the way that the Regnerus "study" undermines confidence in UT's academic integrity. At a minimum, UT must advance from the Inquiry to the Investigation phase in the misconduct allegations filed against Regnerus.

texasex_bcb August 15, 2012 at 9:44 pm

Where is the University of Texas at Austin's apology to its' tens of thousands of Gay and Lesbian ex students who are embarrassed by this entire drama.

I'd expect this from Baylor or just about any other substandard University in the State of Texas with the exception of Rice or UT.

These hate groups just love their junk science. They love to use quack professional associations too which is quite sad. Regenerus should be fired, period.

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