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Shameful Academe Twists Research To Attack LGBT Families

There is an old truism that academes are measured by the worst of their numbers, at least that is how I think it went. I have spent nigh on twenty years in academia, and been reminded time and time again that being unethical about my research or my writing is something that should never happen. My work may be guided by what I believe is true, but the moment I falsify my research in order to bow to my beliefs- political, religious, and so forth- then I risk being labeled as untrustworthy and a failure.

Simply put, as an academe, the worst crime just under that of plagiarism is to falsify research. This is why “historian” David Barton is considered to be nothing more than a charlatan. Joining the ranks of these false prophets of Conservative Academia is Mark Regnerus. The fact that he is an Associate Professor at the University of Texas is even worse. His latest “paper” called New Family Structures Study does not actually study anything that he claims, and the fact that he appears to have falsified or twisted his research in order to get the conclusion that he wanted just makes not only him, but the University of Texas, a laughing stock.

The University should either discipline him or fire him because of the travesty that he perpetuated against academia.

To explain, I will just give you the press release from Family Equality, but know that I have checked his latest paper myself and concur:

A flawed, misleading, and scientifically unsound paper that seeks to disparage lesbian and gay parents was roundly criticized today by organizations that protect and advance the freedoms and equality of Americans who are lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT).

The paper, “New Family Structures Study,” written by right-wing author Mark Regnerus (of the Department of Sociology and Population Research Center at the University of Texas at Austin) and funded in large part by the anti-gay Witherspoon Institute, makes a number of claims about negative outcomes for children raised by gay and lesbian parents. However, for the most part, the paper doesn’t even look at same-sex couples raising a child together in a long-term committed relationship.

The Family Equality Council, the Human Rights Campaign (HRC), Freedom to Marry, and the Gay and Lesbian Alliance against Defamation (GLAAD) pointed out that numerous flaws and a biased agenda undermine the claims made by the paper.

“Flawed methodology and misleading conclusions all driven by a right-wing ideology,” said Jennifer Chrisler, Executive Director of the Family Equality Council. “That alone should raise doubts about the credibility of this author’s work. But on top of that, his paper doesn’t even measure what it claims to be measuring.”

“Because of the serious flaws, this so-called study doesn’t match 30 years of scientific research that shows overwhelmingly that children raised by parents who are LGBT do equally as well as their counterparts raised by heterosexual parents,” said Human Rights Campaign President Chad Griffin.

Griffin and Chrisler added that those conclusions are backed up by every major child welfare organization—whose sole objective is to ensure child welfare– along with the American Psychological Association, the American Academy of Pediatrics, and the National Association of Social Workers, who all confirm that LGBT parents make good parents.

Chrisler also said that these 30 years of research are grounded in the day-to-day reality witnessed by millions of Americans.

“Everyday people in this country see real-life examples of the love, commitment and caring these parents provide to their children, said Chrisler. “These parents are raising their children to be kind to their friends and neighbors, support their communities and uphold American values. One biased paper cannot undo the truth nor demean the value of these families.”

Regnerus is well known for his ultra-conservative ideology and the paper was funded by the Witherspoon Institute and the Bradley Foundation – two groups commonly known for their support of conservative causes. The Witherspoon Institute also has ties to the Family Research Council, the National Organization for Marriage, and ultra-conservative Catholic groups like Opus Dei.

Freedom to Marry President Evan Wolfson said it is these anti-gay groups and their dangerous ideologies that, in fact, create some of the biggest legal, social, and economic challenges that LGBT families do face.

“The two million kids being raised by 1 million gay parents in this country are doing great, and would do even better if their parents didn’t have to deal with legal discrimination such as the denial of the freedom to marry, and ongoing attacks such as this kind of pseudo-scientific misinformation and the disinformation agenda that’s funding it,” said Wolfson.

GLAAD President Herndon Graddick added, “A growing majority of Americans today already realize the harms this kind of junk science inflicts on loving families. If the media decides that this paper is worth covering, journalists have a responsibility to inform their audiences about the serious and glaring flaws in its methodology, and about the biased views of its author and funders.”

Key problems with the “New Family Structures Study” include:

The paper is fundamentally flawed and intentionally misleading. It doesn’t even measure what it claims to be measuring. Most of the children examined in the paper were not being raised by parents in a committed same-sex relationship—whereas the other children in the study were being raised in two-parent homes with straight parents.

Given its fundamental flaws and ideological agenda, it’s not surprising that the paper doesn’t match the 30 years of solid scientific research on gay and lesbian parents and families. That research has been reviewed by child welfare organizations like the Child Welfare League of America, the National Adoption Center, the National Association of Social Workers and others whose only priority is the health and welfare of children and that research has led them to strongly support adoption by lesbian and gay parents.

In addition, the paper’s flaws highlight the disconnect between its claims about gay parents and the lived experiences of 2 million children in this country being raised by LGBT parents. Americans know that their LGBT friends, family members and neighbors are wonderful parents and are providing loving and happy homes to children.

The paper fails to consider the impact of family arrangement or family transitions on children, invalidating any attempt on its part to assess the impact of sexual orientation on parenting. The paper inappropriately compares children raised by two heterosexual parents for 18 years with children who experience family transitions – like foster care – or who live with single or divorced parents, or in blended families. Moreover, the limited number of respondents arbitrarily classified as having a gay or lesbian parent are combined regardless of their experiences of family instability.

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3 Responses to Shameful Academe Twists Research To Attack LGBT Families

  1. Riki Sarah Dennis

    June 13, 2012 at 8:14 pm

    Isn’t it odd to see this blatant nod to a “researcher’s” right-wing agenda, considering the social context? So often education is assumed to have a liberal or leftist bias in popular culture. Yet, had I presented a paper driven by my own left-of-center leanings, I doubt it would’ve been published in the first place, unless it was back by sound reserch. It does say as much about the university as the author. I wonder how such academic “standards” will affect enrollment?

  2. Herald

    June 11, 2012 at 8:56 pm

    Thanks for this warning. In a few weeks I will be visiting my parents and youngest brother (all quite conservative evangelicals). They are likely to be bringing up this sort of “research” and now I am better able to handle them.

    • Bridgette P. LaVictoire

      June 11, 2012 at 8:58 pm

      You’re welcome. The research that has been done to day comparing children of long term families; children in transient families, children of divorced parents, and so forth have found that the configuration of parents isn’t important. Children raised by one parent are worse off than children raised by two parents.