Mark Regnerus’ study into “family structure” appears to have been heavily riddled with several ethical issues. In fact, Regnerus’ study has been condemned repeatedly in various spots thanks to his conclusions that children are harmed if they are raised by same-sex parents even thought his entire point was never that. In fact, an internal audit by the very academic journal that printed the study concluded that its conclusions were false.
Regnarus’ study involved anecdotal evidence from children who had a parent who had a same-sex relationship at some point in their opposite-sex marriage. His evidence, which has been slammed as being thin and barely useable, appears to show that children raised in households where one partner is closeted gay and the other is straight are at risk of significant problems down the line. His study did not include children raised by openly gay or lesbian couples.
In a recent interview with Focus on the Family, Regnerus finally admitted that:
REGNERUS: I got taken to task for leaning on young adults’ assessments of their parents’ relationships. I didn’t ask them whether they thought their mom was a lesbian or if their dad was gay. Because, in part, self-identity is a different kind of thing than behavior, and lot of people weren’t “out” in that era. I think we can all think of moms and dads when we were growing up that we either knew or suspected were gay or lesbian, but never “came out of the closet,” so to speak. So, I didn’t want to make the assumption that these young adults would identify their parents as gay or lesbian, so I kept the focus on relationship behavior. [...]
And when pushed, a lot of people who were critics of mine will say: “Yeah, we know that, obviously, family structure matters,” and then they’ll complain, “Why didn’t you find many stably coupled lesbians?” Well, they just were not that common in the nationally representative population. There were two cases where they said the mom and her partner lived together for 18 years. There was another several who lived together for 15 or 13 years. So, stability in the sense of long-term was not common. And frankly, it’s not all that common among heterosexual population. I take pains in the study to say this is not about saying gay or lesbian parents are inherently bad. [...]
I’d be more careful about the language I used to describe people whose parents had same-sex relationships. I said “lesbian mothers” and “gay fathers,” when in fact, I don’t know about their sexual orientation; I do know about their same-sex relationship behavior. But as far as the findings themselves, I stand behind them.
ThinkProgress notes that:
So, Regnerus’ study was not about parents who openly identify as gay or lesbian. It was not about same-sex couples in long-term relationships raising children together. Regnerus even admits “this is not about saying gay or lesbian parents are inherently bad,” because he knows has no foundation on which to make such a claim. This was a study about unstable couples, possibly in sham marriages, who may have dabbled in same-sex relationships outside of their original marriage at a time when there was no recognition for same-sex couples anywhere in the country.
Anti-gay groups have clung to the Regnerus study, often citing it as part of their opposition to same-sex marriage.