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The Regnerus Hoax: NCFR’s Paul Amato’s Self-Serving Baloney

Stock photo of children.

Stock photo of children.


In June, 2012, Elsevier’s Social Science Research journal editor Dr. James Wright published, online, a propaganda package around Mark Regnerus’s paper from the so-called New Family Structures Study under the false pretense that two papers in the package had received valid professional peer review. Now, every anti-gay hate group in the world is exploiting the Wright/Regnerus propaganda package.

On July 20, 2013, after confessing that despite his fiduciary conflicts of interest as an NFSS study consultant, he had peer reviewed the Regnerus paper, Dr. Paul Amato of Penn State — incoming president of the National Council on Family Relations — published a disingenuous, hypocritical attempted defense of his role in the Regnerus hoax. The Amato statement appeared on the sociology blog Family Inequality, which is maintained by Dr. Philip Cohen of the University of Maryland. The statement includes this confession from Amato: “I understand that providing a review was not a good idea, because one should avoid even the hint of impropriety in matters like this.”

Commenting under Amato’s statement, Dr. Claude Summers correctly said: “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.”

In addition to being an NFSS consultant and a peer reviewer of the Regnerus paper, Amato wrote a commentary published along with Regnerus’s paper. Although the Regnerus paper is not supported by the NFSS data, and does not answer the question it claims to be answering, Dr. Amato wrote the following in his commentary, which is titled The Well-Being of Children with Gay and Lesbian Parents. “the Regnerus study is better situated than virtually all previous studies to detect differences between these groups in the population.” Together with Amato’s and the NCFR’s names, that scientifically inappropriate endorsement of “the Regnerus study” is being used in political gay bashing all over the world as “proof” that the Wright/Regnerus propaganda packages are scientifically valid.

Now, apart from one’s opinion of whether gays are human enough to deserve rights, it is imperative that the scholarly record not be contaminated by junk science. Though he consulted on the NFSS, peer reviewed the Regnerus paper and wrote a commentary regarding both it and a companion paper by the disgraced Dr. Loren Marks, Amato in his Family Inequality statement alleges that he thought that the NFSS could constitute a “useful contribution to the literature on LGBT families.” Meanwhile in documented reality, Regnerus’s survey asked no questions at all involving transgendered people. And, the data do not permit an understanding of whether any of the respondents were substantially raised by one and still less by two gay or bi-sexual parents.

In the follow-up Regnerus propaganda package that Wright published in November, 2012, Regnerus addressed the particular criticism of his work by which it is said that a large number of his respondents were products of “mixed-orientation” marriages, i.e. of a straight person married to a closet case. Regnerus wrote “Whether these were in fact mixed-orientation marriages or relationships is of course impossible to discern with confidence.” Despite that, Amato in his recent statement, in lambasting Regnerus’s critics, urges them to dig deeper into the findings, on the alleged basis that many of the study respondents were products of mixed-orientation marriages. Thus, Amato is making a claim for the data which objectively viewed is false and inaccurate and which Regnerus himself confessed is wrong. The NFSS data do not show what Amato self-servingly and inaccurately claims they show.

Perrin, Cohen and Caren, in their article Responding to the Regnerus Study – (which has been accepted through peer review for publication in The Journal of Gay and Lesbian Mental Health) — write that “due to major deficiencies of the data, significant untested assumptions, poor data analysis, unmeasurable recall and selection bias, and lack of consideration of appropriate alternative hypotheses, there is insufficient evidence to confirm” that gay parents’ children have outcomes inferior to those of heterosexual parents. They continue: “Regnerus fails to demonstrate that children from same-sex families display disadvantages. Thus the state of the science remains as it was prior to publication of Rengerus : there is no systematic evidence demonstrating that children from same-sex households suffer disadvantages relative to appropriate comparison groups from opposite-sex households.”

Without getting too thick into the weeds, it should be mentioned that Perrin et. al. – in discussing the problem of “recall bias” in the NFSS — cite a 1991 article by Amato himself – on, of all things, recall bias. Meanwhile, though, in his commentary on the Regnerus paper, Amato wrote nothing whatsoever about recall bias, instead inaccurately alleging that “the Regnerus study is better situated than virtually all previous studies to detect differences between these groups in the population.”

Amato in his statement also claims that other recent studies found inferior outcomes for gay parents’ children. In reality, one of those papers, by Dr. Daniel Potter found that, net of family transitions, gay parents’ children show no differences in comparison to heterosexual parents’ children. The other paper, led by Douglas Allen of NOM’s notorious, gay-bashing Ruth Institute, exhibits many of the same scientific failures as the Regnerus paper, and comes at root from the same place of political gay bashing unscientifically justified through religious condemnations of homosexuality. Amato mentioned those two papers, without mentioning that the anti-gay claims for them have been thoroughly debunked, and he did so by way of a sleazy attempted alibi for his scientifically inappropriate green-lighting, as a peer reviewer, of the Regnerus paper.

Amato alleges that he supports gay rights, but with friends like Amato, LGBTers do not need enemies. The same goes for the scholarly record; it does not need enemies, if it has “friends” like Dr. Amato. This reporter sent Dr. Amato a link to Perrin, et. al.’s article, asking him if he has any substantive disagreement with it; Amato refused to respond, though originally he wanted to publish his self-serving baloney as a stand-alone post on this site. As happened, below the Amato statement, Dr. Cohen announced that he wants the Regnerus paper retracted, that he is boycotting Social Science Research for as long as Wright is editor and that he hopes others will join him. Dr. Cohen notes apropos of Regnerus: “the author lied in the paper about the involvement of the institute that funded it.”

Whereas Amato in his statement alleged that he personally had nothing to gain from the Regnerus paper being published, do not be fooled: for whatever reasons he made his counterfactual endorsements of the Regnerus paper, he has now publicly humiliated himself by means of his contributions to junk science. Because he, as a peer reviewer with fiduciary conflicts of interest, recommended publication of a paper unsupported by the study data, Dr. Amato personally and professionally is very heavily invested in trying to prevent Regnerus’s lies-packed junk science from being retracted. Amato’s continued public, non-peer-reviewed attempts to validate the Regnerus paper are not supported by the NFSS data and are fatally tainted by his conflicts of interest.



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