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NCFR’s Dr. Paul Amato: a Villain of the Regnerus Hoax

298px-Pennsylvania_State_University_seal.svgBy our guest Scott Rose

Penn State’s sociologist Dr. Paul Amato is incoming President of the National Council on Family Relations (NCFR), set to assume the position in November, 2013.

In 2005, NCFR took millions from the Bush administration to develop an online clearinghouse for information about American families. The money came with strings attached: Bush demanded that NCFR say nothing at all about gay people or gay-headed families. NCFR had to be pressured by the LGBT community into rescinding the offer from Bush.

Amato was a paid consultant to, and a peer reviewer of, and a commentary writer about the notorious New Family Structures Study, an anti-gay hoax promulgated by the NOM-linked Witherspoon Institute and carried out by the anti-gay-rights Mark Regnerus of the University of Texas at Austin (UT). Few if any credible scholars would accept to fill those three roles for one and the same study, due to the actual conflicts of interest involved and to the perceived conflicts of interest involved; Amato’s motives are unclear.

Documentation of the communications between Regnerus and Amato about the NFSS recently were had via Public Information Act requests to Regnerus’s UT.

In his commentary published alongside the Regnerus paper in June, 2012, Amato stated that the NFSS data were better positioned than any other data set to detect differences between gay-headed, and other types of families. His statement about the NFSS data is at odds with the scientific community’s consensus on it. Amato’s propaganda continues to be trumpeted in support of the Regnerus paper by, among others, such anti-gay hate-mongerers as NOM’s Maggie Gallagher – (who apparently lied to the public about NOM’s Robert George’s, and her own involvement in the genesis and funding of the study) – by the Family Research Council’s Peter Sprigg and by the Catholic Church.

While ignoring the consensus criticism of Regnerus’s paper, and not even addressing whether the paper answers the question it claims to be answering, Amato in his commentary goes into great detail about the “effect sizes” of Regnerus’s findings. Amato appears to have strived to lend scientific legitimacy to Regnerus’s paper by writing in detail about esoteric matters as though the way he was writing about them were not completely undermined by the fact that the Regnerus paper does not answer the question it claims it is answering: “Do the children of gay and lesbian parents look comparable to those of their heterosexual counterparts?”

Witherspoon’s Brad Wilcox, meanwhile, assured Regnerus that it was a great coup to attach Amato to the NFSS, (even though Amato had no prior specialist training or experience in LGBT-sciences).

In an e-mail dated October 22, 2010, Amato wrote to Regnerus: “Were you serious about that second ticket? My wife lived in Austin for many years, and I’m sure she would love to get back.” Regnerus responded: “Very serious about the second ticket, consider it done.”

On February 2, 2012, Regnerus sent Amato a copy of his manuscript along with an e-mail message informing him that he had recommended Amato to Social Science Research editor Dr. James Wright as a peer reviewer. He said he hoped that he would take the assignment if offered. Flabbergastingly, Regnerus added about the peer review: “It’s only half-blind anyway.” According to documentation, Amato did indeed peer review the Regnerus paper, despite his conflict of interest.


Also of note is that Amato asked Regnerus if he could give the NFSS data to his former Ph.D. student Spencer James of Brigham Young University. In the 1970s, Brigham Young was a setting for a professor experimenting with “curing” gay people through electric shock “therapy.”  The current Brigham Young honor code forbids all expressions of homosexual affection. It also forbids anybody in the university community from promoting homosexuality as being morally acceptable.

In other words, Amato cast his lot as a “scientist” with a mob of dishonest, gay-bashing bigots who do not have a scientific view of homosexuality. From the summer through the fall of 2012, in a series of e-mail exchanges, Amato commiserated with Regnerus over the criticisms of the NFSS.  He assured Regnerus that he was telling others that Regnerus is a “serious” scientist and had carried out the NFSS in an “unbiased” way. “Anything you can do to speak well of me in all this is appreciated,” Regnerus said.

On October 1, 2012, Amato wrote this to Regnerus: “After the whole thing broke, I decided to keep a low profile, partly because I’m the incoming president of NCFR, and the organization doesn’t need the controversy.”

The National Council on Family Relation’s commitment to LGBT rights is thrown into doubt by its having Amato assigned as its incoming President. The status quo, in which anti-gay-rights forces worldwide continue exploiting Amato’s endorsement of Regnerus, while Amato makes no public objection to their doing so, is not acceptable.


A prior version of this article incorrectly stated that Dr. Paul Amato is the current NCFR president.

Additionally, it stated that NCFR accepted the Bush offer. While in fact, NCFR had accepted the offer from Bush, after pressure was applied by the LGBT community, NCFR decided not to carry out the mission.




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2 Responses to NCFR’s Dr. Paul Amato: a Villain of the Regnerus Hoax

  1. Scott Rose

    July 22, 2013 at 2:26 pm

    I am posting this comment about Amato and the Regnerus paper; the comment originally was made by Claude Summers on Dr. Philip Cohen’s blog “FamilyInequality”

    Claude Summers
    July 22, 2013 at 11:05 am
    The whole purpose of peer review is to weed out poorly conceived studies that do not contribute to the advancement of science and the pursuit of truth. Obviously, not all peer-reviewed articles are necessarily “true” or make a genuine contribution to science and scholars have strong disagreements about methodology and conclusions, and from those disagreements science is often advanced; but the expectation is that studies published in scholarly journals after a rigorous peer-review are good faith efforts to reach the truth and are not mere propaganda or efforts designed to mislead.

    Reviewers have an obligation not only to disclose conflicts of interest but also to make certain that the studies they recommend have academic integrity and actually do what they say they are doing. Amato’s failure to do this is what, it seems to me, makes him complicit in the Regnerus hoax.

    Federal courts have very specific criteria for certifying “expert” witnesses and allowing the citation of scholarly papers. One of those criteria is that witnesses have relevant credentials and have published in peer-reviewed scholarly journals. That is why, for example, the opinions of the Prop 8 star witness David Blankenhorn were disallowed in the Prop 8 case. He has no Ph.D. in a relevant field and his only publication in a peer-reviewed journal had nothing to do with marriage.

    Similarly, the citations of scholarly evidence in the official briefs of the plaintiffs and defendants in federal cases also must meet a similar standard. Hence, it was crucial to the attorneys attempting to preserve DOMA and Prop 8 that they have some respectable “evidence” to counteract the overwhelming scholarly consensus that same-sex parents are as capable as opposite-sex parents. They got what they were looking for, thanks to the $700,000 spent by the Witherspoon Institute to manufacture Regnerus’s junk science and the complicity of Social Science Research and its reviewers.

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