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Harvey Fierstein and the Anti-Gay Regnerus Study

By Scott Rose

Harvey Fierstein by David Shankbone

Harvey Fierstein by David Shankbone

As part of his campaign expressing outrage over the persecution of gay people in Russia, the Hollywood and Broadway star Harvey Fierstein – a gay hero if ever there were one – has said “it seemed to me a really good time for us as a community to say, ‘You know what boys?’ Time to stop fucking with us.” He has also said: “We have to create an environment where we are too dangerous to mess with.”

Harvey was talking specifically about pulling economic levers against the Russian persecution of LGBTers. What he might not yet realize, though, is the extent to which Mark Regnerus’s anti-gay junk science paper from “The New Family Structures Study” fanned the flames of anti-gay hatred in Russia and helped to lead to the recent passage of yet harsher ant-gay “laws” there.

The website www.peoples.ru has a listing of people famous in Russia. Regnerus is listed in the science section along with five pictures of him. Under the Russian-language banner of “Shocking Scientific Facts about Same-Sex Parents,” the site http://vsenovosti.in.ua published a feature-length article hate-mongering against gays while very significantly misrepresenting the Regnerus paper. Regnerus accepted to be interviewed by that anti-gay Russian venue, yet when Mark Oppenheimer wanted to interview him for “The New York Times” about the connection between his gay-bashing faith and his sociological work product, all he could say was that he didn’t think discussing the connection would be profitable. When interviewed by certain religious venues, though, Regnerus has in the past said that he thinks his (anti-gay) faith should inform his work. The English-language site serving readers with an interest in Russia, http://english.pravda.ru has trumpeted the Regnerus paper in anti-gay contexts. At a “summit” of anti-gay political figures in France, attended by some of the lead anti-gay politicians from Russia, Beatrice Bourges lauded an anti-gay Russian kingpin for her use of the Regnerus paper.

Harvey has expressed particular concern about rumors that Russian government officials are considering a law that would mandate the removal of all children from homes with gay parents. The Regnerus paper obviously has been a driver of that notion, with its fraudulent “findings” that gay parents are ipso facto a potential menace to children. We must not ignore that Regnerus himself has encouraged use of his paper in anti-gay contexts, and done nothing when a Russian venue very seriously misrepresented his paper to hate-monger against gays. His behavior there violates the American Sociological Association’s “Code of Ethics” “Public Communications” section.

Meanwhile, on the purely scientific side, Regnerus’s junk science paper is so riddled with fundamental errors of the basics of sociology — to say nothing of the basics of gay parenting sciences — that it would not pass out of any conscientious professor’s Sociology 101 class without getting an F. That Elsevier’s “Social Science Research” journal editor James Wright of the University of Central Florida published the Regnerus and associated papers without remotely respecting the ethics of peer review has been documented beyond all doubt. James Wright so far has been able to ignore the protests from an overwhelming majority in his profession, because his misdeeds have not been widely-enough reported to the public.

In April/May, 2013, the President of the American Sociological Association was among the signers of a letter to James Wright calling for retraction of the Regnerus paper. Among other things, that letter talks about the documentation showing that there was: “a direct relationship between a funder with a clear political agenda, a clear expected outcome for the research, and the researcher himself.” The letter to James Wright also says: “Despite being a clear conflict of interest, you allowed these reviewers to consider the validity of Regnerus’s paper.” The letter signed by the ASA President furthermore says: “In order to maintain the intellectual integrity of your journal, the article must be retracted.” Beyond that letter, there is Dr. Philip Cohen, Director of Graduate Studies in Sociology at the University of Maryland, who is leading a boycott of Elsevier’s “Social Science Research” for as long as James Wright is editor. Here are Dr. Cohen’s reasons for the boycott: “I believe the paper should be retracted because the conclusions are demonstrably wrong, because the author lied in the paper about the involvement of the institute that funded it, and because the peer review process was compromised by conflicts of interest. As long as this remains uncorrected, and James Wright remains editor, the integrity of the journal is indelibly tarnished.”

The Regnerus and associated anti-gay junk science papers published by James Wright have successfully been used to hate-monger against gays in Nigeria and Belize, and to obtain an anti-gay-rights decision in Puerto Rico. In the United States, despite a prior Supreme Court decision that was supposed to stop the use of junk science in the courts, anti-gay bigots successfully used Regnerus towards obtaining anti-gay-rights decisions in Hawaii and Nevada. Who knows how many individuals involved in custody cases and the like have been victimized by Wright’s two Regnerus-related junk science packages published in Elsevier’s journal “Social Science Research” in June and November of 2012? Within the last year, I spoke with an attorney on a major gay rights case progressing through the U.S. courts. That attorney informed me that the anti-gay side was pushing Regnerus hard, and that they were having to squander all kinds of resources on fighting against it.

Retraction of the Regnerus and Marks anti-gay junk science papers will stop them from being used in the courts. Towards that end, we must never forget Harvey Fierstein’s words: “You know what boys?’ Time to stop fucking with us.” James Wright knows exactly what he did in publishing Regnerus’s and Marks’ anti-gay junk science, quite despite his public prevarications and cover-ups with respect to his gross editorial misconduct. It is way past time for Wright to be held accountable, and for the Regnerus and Marks papers to be retracted.

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5 Responses to Harvey Fierstein and the Anti-Gay Regnerus Study

  1. Jimbert II

    August 27, 2013 at 1:55 am

    Jimbert, please make the effort to have your comments reviewed and edited by a high school English teacher before posting.

  2. jimbert

    August 19, 2013 at 12:31 pm

    Ours is a tolerant and inclusive society and therefore the participants of homosexuality are no longer persecuted by law. However, it still remains an odity or sexual error only occassionally found in non human species and was historically condemned by most religions and societies. Participants, I assume are confronted with the emotional dilemna of conciosly deciding whether to accept their sexual desires and shame fear self loathing and many other issues before they proclaim their homosexuality. However, I must ask the question, have our societies tolerances not removed those emotional difficulties to the point where those persons, children and future generations are conditioned to consider homosexuality as simply normal and an equally valid sexual option to choose when they come to decide their way. Therefore, will legalisation for homosexual marriage not simply be promoting homosexuality as an equally accepted sexual option to society and children? Therefore I also pose the question, is the russian law recently being reported that prohibits homosexual propoganga from being put to children not a reasonable and a responcible law for a society to maintain normal sexuality?

    • Bridgette P. LaVictoire

      August 19, 2013 at 12:31 pm

      Homosexuality is a normal sexuality.

    • Randy Goldberg MD MPH FACP

      August 19, 2013 at 7:27 pm

      “an equally valid sexual option to choose when they come to decide their way.”

      Tell me, sir, when did you CHOOSE to be heterosexual? Or were you just born that way? Your entire question is born of heterosexism, a prejudice as insidious and hateful racism, anti-Semitism, sexism, or any other. I made no conscious choice about my orientation, only the choice between a life of self-hatred and repression, and a life of self-acceptance and openness.

    • Scott Rose

      August 26, 2013 at 10:59 pm

      Scientific information about homosexuality can not reasonably be described as “propaganda.” By definition, actual science is never “propaganda.” Moreover, what is your commitment to the First Amendment’s guarantee of free speech rights? The anti-gay “laws” in Russia are completely at odds with the First Amendment of the United States Constitution. Such a law would never pass here, and even in the hypothetical case where it did, injunctive relief would be granted immediately, and precedent law would assure that such a travesty was almost as immediately struck down completely.