Mark Regnerus said the conservative organization that funded his study played â€˜no roleâ€™ in the research. New evidence calls that claim into question.
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 â€” the socially conservative think tank that supplied the bulk of Regnerusâ€™ funding â€” did indeed play a role carrying out and analyzing the study.
In his peer-reviewed article, Regnerus said his research revealed different â€” and often unfavorable â€” 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 Regnerusâ€™ initial findings from the ongoing â€œNew Family Structures Study,â€ published in the July issue of Social Science Research. The study hasÂ been citedÂ in court briefs to defend the constitutionality of the Defense of Marriage Act andÂ by a federal judgeÂ in a decision upholding Hawaiiâ€™s ban on same-sex marriage. Opponents of marriage equality have also used it in state-level ballot-measure campaigns.
Right away, Regnerusâ€™ findings sparked a backlash, as critics said his study was methodologically flawed. Many have argued that Regnerusâ€™ actual comparisons â€” 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 â€” did not correspond with his conclusions.
The research has also provoked questions, especially from gay-rights advocates, about whether the Witherspoon Institute â€“ some of whose leaders have ties to the National Organization for Marriage and other groups that advocate against gay marriage â€“ influenced the studyâ€™s design. Both Regnerus and Witherspoon have denied this charge.
It turns out that from 2010 to 2012, one of the studyâ€™s paid consultants wasÂ William Bradford Wilcox. For much of that time, Wilcox was also the director of Witherspoonâ€™s â€œProgram on Family, Marriage, and Democracy,â€ the program from which Regnerusâ€™ study was born.
Much of the new evidence regarding Wilcoxâ€™s involvement wasÂ unearthedÂ 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 theÂ National Marriage Project, whose stated mission is â€œto 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.â€ Among his many affiliations, Wilcox is on theÂ Board of Advisory EditorsÂ of Social Science Research, which published Regnerusâ€™ study.
Up until Oct. 2, the Witherspoon Instituteâ€™s websiteÂ identifiedÂ Wilcox as the director of the Witherspoonâ€™s Program on Family, Marriage, and Democracy (referred to in this case as the â€œProgram on Marriage, Family, and Democracy.â€) ThatÂ linkÂ is now defunct. The Witherspoonâ€™s tax form fromÂ 2010Â describes the launch of the â€œNew Family Structures Studyâ€ as one of the yearâ€™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 andÂ concludedÂ in late August that â€œno formal investigation is warranted.â€ The university used that investigationÂ as a reason for not disclosingÂ to The American Independent any documents related to the Regnerusâ€™ 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 aÂ public records request from RoseÂ for communications between Regnerus and Wilcox concerning the study, the universityâ€™s counsel asked Texasâ€™ attorney general to allow the university to withhold those documents. Rose provided TAI with a copy of the letter, which says that â€œProfessors Regnerus and Wilcox collaborated on the data collection and analysis that formed the basis of Dr. Regnerusâ€™s publicationâ€ on the New Family Structures Study.
The responsive documents include email exchanges between the Universityâ€™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. Regnerusâ€™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. Regnerusâ€™s intellectual property.
In an employment authorization form obtained by TAI from the University of Texas, Wilcoxâ€™s role in Regnerusâ€™ project is described this way: â€œDr. 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.â€ 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 â€œworked with Dr. Regnerus on data analysis and structure in the past.â€
â€˜Provided input to Professor Mark Regnerusâ€™
From the beginning, Regnerus and the Witherspoon Institute have said Witherspoon had nothing to do with how the study was designed or implemented â€” other than providing roughly $700,000 for Regnerus to carry out the work.
In hisÂ initial articleÂ on his findings, Regnerus wrote: â€œThe 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 causesâ€”just as other private foundations are known for supporting more liberal causesâ€”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.â€
And the Witherspoon Institute, on itsÂ websiteÂ promoting the study, states: â€œIn order to insure that the NFSS was conducted with intellectual integrity, beginning from the earliest stages the Witherspoon Institute was not involved in the Studyâ€™s design, implementation, or interpretation.â€
Wilcox, Regnerus, and the Witherspoon Institute have all stood by previous statements that the Witherspoon was never involved in how Regnerusâ€™ 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 Witherspoonâ€™s Program on Family, Marriage, and Democracy, while the New Family Structure Study was being developed, but he said Wilcox exited that position â€œwhen the NFSS was entering the period of implementation i.e. the survey was about to be fielded.â€
â€œIn 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,â€ Tellez said. â€œNever 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.â€
According to Tellez, Wilcox did not advise the Witherspoon Institute on matters relating to â€œthe scope of the study, how it is to be conducted and how to interpret the results.â€
But Wilcox was involved in the process that led to the studyâ€™s creation, Tellez said.
â€œHis role was to help assemble an initial group of scholars, Mark Regnerus included, out of which came the idea of the NFSS,â€ Tellez said.
Tellez said Wilcox did not use his role at Witherspoon to pressure Regnerus to conduct his study in any specific way.
â€œWilcox 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.,â€ Tellez said. â€œThe only sentiments that were conveyed, and this were conveyed primarily to Mark,Â 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 inÂ his professional integrity, I would inquire with him occasionally as to whether this standards were being applied. Just to be sure all was well.â€
After TAI questioned Wilcox about his roles at the Witherspoon Institute and as a paid consultant on the study, Wilcox published aÂ blog postÂ 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 Witherspoonâ€™s director of the Program on Family, Marriage, and Democracy as â€œhonorific.â€ He said that from October 2010 to April 2012, he â€œprovided input to Professor Mark Regnerus about the design, analysis, and interpretation of the survey data associated with the NFSS,â€ but he emphasized that he did not make â€œfunding or programmatic decisions atâ€ Witherspoon. He also noted that he was among â€œa dozen paid academic consultantsâ€ who worked with Regnerus on the project.
â€œI 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,â€ Wilcox wrote.
Regnerus also told TAI in a phone interview that he never viewed Wilcox as a â€œWitherspoon agent.â€
â€œHe never acted as a Witherspoon mouthpiece,â€ Regnerus said. â€œAs a consultant he did not represent Witherspoon.â€
Responding to Wilcoxâ€™s post,Â Deutsch wroteÂ Wednesday that Wilcoxâ€™s dual role at the Witherspoon and as a paid consultant on the study should have been disclosed, and that the omission was deceptive.
â€œThere is nothing unethical about Brad working with both NFSS and Witherspoon, in my opinion,â€ he wrote. â€œBrad 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.â€
But, he added: â€œIn my opinion, Professor Regnerusâ€™ carefully-crafted statement about his funding sourcesâ€™ non-participation was deceptive. It omitted a relationship that was obviously relevant and should have been mentioned, and Regnerusâ€™ 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.â€
This article originally appeared atÂ The American IndependentÂ and is republished here by permission.
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On World AIDS Day, DOJ Says Tennessee Law Discriminates Against Those With HIV
The Department of Justice celebrated World AIDS Day by calling out a Tennessee law that discriminates against people with HIV.
The DOJ released a report Friday that the state’s aggravated prostitution law violated the Americans with Disabilities Act. A person arrested under the aggravated prostitution law is normally changed with a misdemeanor, and faces up to six months in prison and a $500 fine. However, if the person arrested has HIV, the crime becomes a felony, and if they’re convicted, they would face between three and 15 years in prison and a $10,000 fine.
“Tennessee’s aggravated prostitution law is outdated, has no basis in science, discourages testing and further marginalizes people living with HIV,” Assistant Attorney General Kristen Clarke of the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division said in a statement. “People living with HIV should not be treated as violent sex offenders for the rest of their lives solely because of their HIV status. The Justice Department is committed to ensuring that people with disabilities are protected from discrimination.”
The law was originally passed in 1991. It classifies HIV-positive sex workers as violent sex offenders, according to WKRN-TV. This means that in addition to the sentence, those convicted are put on the Tennessee Sex Offender Registry, usually for the rest of their lives.
The DOJ advised the state—and particularly, the Shelby County District Attorney’s Office, which enforces the statute most frequently, the department says—to stop enforcing the law. It also calls on the state to repeal the law and remove anyone from the registry when aggravated prostitution is the only offense. If this doesn’t happen, Tennessee could face a lawsuit.
Tennessee isn’t the only state to have laws applying to only those living with HIV. In 1988, Michigan passed a law requiring those with HIV to disclose their status before sex, according to WLNS-TV. The law is still on the books, but was updated in 2019 to lift the requirement if the HIV-positive person has an undetectable viral load. The law now also requires proof that the person set out to transmit HIV.
Laws like these can work against public health efforts, according to the National Institutes of Health. The NIH says these types of laws can make people less likely to be tested for HIV, as people cannot be punished if they didn’t know their status. In addition, critics say, the laws can be used to further discriminate. A Canadian study found a disproportionate number of Black men had been charged under HIV exposure laws.
World AIDS Day was first launched in 1988 by the World Health Organization and the United Nations to highlight awareness of the then-relatively new disease. The theme of the 2023 World AIDS Day is “Let Communities Lead,” calling on community leaders to end the AIDS epidemic.
Featured image by UNIS Vienna/Flickr via Creative Commons License.
John Fetterman Says Bob Menendez ‘Senator for Egypt,’ Should Be Expelled Next
Senator John Fetterman (D-PA) called Senator Bob Menendez (D-NJ) a “senator for Egypt,” and said he needed to be expelled from Congress, much like the now-former Representative George Santos.
Fetterman appeared on The View on Friday. The live broadcast aired as Santos had been kicked out of the House. When host Joy Behar asked what he thought of the vote, Fetterman immediately replied, “I’m not surprised.”
“If you are going to expel Santos, how can you allow somebody like Menendez to remain in the Senate? And, you know, Santos’ kind of lies were almost, you know, funny,” Fetterman said. “Menendez, I think is really a senator for Egypt, you know, not New Jersey. So I really think he needs to go.”
Host Sunny Hostin then asked if Fetterman was uncomfortable with expelling Menendez, as, like with Santos, he had only been indicted, not convicted.
“He has the right for his day in court and all of it, but he doesn’t have the right to to have those kinds of votes and things. That’s not a right,” he said. “I think we need to make that kind of decision to send him out.”
This September, Menendez was indicted on corruption charges. He is accused of accepting bribes of cash, gold and a car, as well as giving “highly sensitive” information about U.S. Embassy staffers in Cairo to the Egyptian government, according to USA Today. Menendez was forced to step down as chair of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. He was replaced by Ben Cardin, Maryland’s Democratic senator.
Menendez denied wrongdoing, and has refused to resign, despite many calls to do so from both Democrats and Republicans.
“For years, forces behind the scenes have repeatedly attempted to silence my voice and dig my political grave,” Menendez said in a statement following his indictment. “Since this investigation was leaked nearly a year ago, there has been an active smear campaign of anonymous sources and innuendos to create an air of impropriety where none exists.”
This is not Menendez’s first brush with the law. Menendez was indicted in 2015 on federal corruption charges. He was accused of helping Salomon Melgen, one of Menendez’s campaign contributors, by intervening in a dispute with federal regulators and helping Melgen get a port security contract in the Dominican Republic.
In 2017, Menendez’s trial ended with a hung jury, and the Department of Justice declined to retry the case, according to the Philadelphia Inquirer. Menendez denied all wrongdoing.
House Votes to Boot George Santos 311-114
Representative George Santos (R-NY) has been expelled from Congress following a 311-114 vote; two House members voted “present.”
The expulsion of Santos follows a debate on his fate on Thursday. The vote required a two-thirds majority, or 290 of the 435-seat chamber. This is Santos’ third vote of expulsion; last month, a vote failed with 31 Democrats voting against, according to The Hill.
While the vote was decisive, some notable Republicans voted to save Santos, including House Speaker Mike Johnson (R-LA) and House Majority Whip Tom Emmer (R-MN).
“We’ve not whipped the vote and we wouldn’t,” Johnson told CNN Wednesday. “I trust that people will make that decision thoughtfully and in good faith. I personally have real reservations about doing this, I’m concerned about a precedent that may be set for that.”
Santos himself had harsh words for the House following the vote. Leaving the capitol building, he briefly spoke with reporters.
“The House spoke that’s their vote. They just set new dangerous precedent for themselves,” he told CNN. “Why would I want to stay here? To hell with this place.”
He then cut his time short, telling reporters, “You know what? As unofficially no longer a member of Congress, I no longer have to answer your questions.”
Santos also faces 23 federal charges, which include fraud, money laundering and misuse of campaign funds, according to CNN. He has pleaded not guilty. An Ethics Committee report found evidence that Santos used campaign funds for Botox and even an OnlyFans account.
On Thursday, Santos said he refused to resign because otherwise, “they win.”
“If I leave the bullies take place. This is bullying,” Santos said. “The reality of it is it’s all theater, theater for the cameras and theater for the microphones. Theater for the American people at the expense of the American people because no real work’s getting done.”
Santos also threatened to file a resolution to expel Representative Jamaal Bowman (D-NY). Bowman pulled a fire alarm in September. Bowman pleaded guilty to the misdemeanor charge, and said it was an accident. He said he thought the fire alarm would open a locked door as he rushed to a vote. Bowman paid a $1,000 fine.
There have only been six total expulsions from the House, including Santos. Santos is the only Republican to ever be expelled from the House.
The previous expulsion was in 2002, when Representative James Traficant (D-OH) was expelled after a 420-1 vote. Traficant had been convicted on 10 counts of corruption-related crimes.
Before Traficant, Representative Michael “Ozzie” Myers (D-PA) was the first representative of the modern era to be expelled. Myers got the boot following his conviction for accepting bribes. Myers couldn’t keep out of trouble; in 2022, he was convicted and sentenced to 30 months in prison on charges of election fraud.
Prior to Myers, the only expulsions from the House were in 1861, at the start of the Civil War. Henry Cornelius Burnett (D-KY), John William Reid (D-MO) and John Bullock Clark (Whig-MO) were all expelled for joining the Confederacy.
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