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The Regnerus Study: ASA President Wants Regnerus’ Junk-Science Retracted

Mark Regnerus, author of the fraudulent Regnerus study

Mark Regnerus, author of the fraudulent Regnerus study

We have just learned that Dr. Cecilia Ridgeway of Stanford University, President of the American Sociological Association, signed the letter below that a group of sociologists sent to Mark Regnerus’s gay-bashing junk science editor Dr. James Wright of Elsevier’s journal “Social Science Research.”

The letter asks for Wright to retract the Regnerus paper. The letter includes these sentences: 1) “In order to maintain the intellectual integrity of your journal, the article must be retracted.” 2) “It was an error on the part of your journal in choosing reviewers who were not impartial and rushing to publication, an error that can only be corrected by retracting the article.”

Wright blew the sociologists off. When they subsequently asked him specifically to address their concerns about the fraudulent, conflicts-of-interest-contaminated “peer review” through which Wright published the Marks and Regnerus papers, Wright blew them off again.

Meanwhile, Dr. Philip Cohen of the University of Maryland – whose by-line has appeared in The Atlantic and in Time magazine — has called for scholars to boycott Elsevier’s “Social Science Research” for as long as Wright is editor.

James Wright thus is 1) a rogue gay basher, greedy for a higher journal “Impact Factor” from the bigot stampedes that the Regnerus junk science packages draw to his site; and he is 2) unwilling to follow the ethics of his profession, even when the leaders of the profession ask him to follow its ethics.

In 2012, when Dr. Erik Olin Wright – (N.B. – this Dr. Wright is not to be confused with Regnerus editor Dr. James Wright) — was President of the American Sociological Association, he signed a previous letter sent to Wright — and signed by hundreds of other Ph.D.s and M.D.s — expressing concerns about the Regnerus paper’s lack of intellectual integrity as well as about the suspicious documented circumstances of its publication.

Since the time of that first letter, it has been documented that Wright’s long-time old crony and editorial board member W. Bradford Wilcox, as a Regnerus funding agency representative orchestrated the whole hoax, booby-trapped the study so it would have the anti-gay-rights bottom line that the funders desired, schemed with Focus on the Family to promote it in anti-gay-rights contexts, with that scheming taking place even before data collection occurred, and then “peer reviewed” it, giving a very enthusiastic recommendation that it be published. Wright’s behavior in allowing his gay-bashing crony Wilcox to “peer review” the Regnerus submission marks him as an unscrupulous operator and an academic whore. In a sober evaluation of the facts of the case, Dr. Gary Gates of the Williams Institute has said: “I do not believe the academy should consider this paper to have undergone legitimate peer review. Elsevier should take steps to either formally retract the paper or subject it to an unbiased peer review process.”

When I spoke with Dr. Ridgeway recently, she was not fully aware of the extent to which Regnerus’s junk science had inspired the passage of anti-gay-rights legislation in Russia. Meanwhile, however, addressing Russian lawmakers at an anti-gay-rights conference held in Paris, the bigot Béatrice Bourges said: “I admit that I greatly admire and envy the way that you have recently been able to explain the study by Mark Regnerus.” “I am Catholic,” Bourges noted in that same address. Luis Tellez, President of Regnerus’s main funder, the Witherspoon Institute, is regional representative of Opus Dei, a secretive organization of the Catholic Church. Regnerus, a Catholic convert, has said that he hopes his research can help the greater Church. The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops and Catholic Church officials around the world have been very heavily pushing the Regnerus and Marks papers to defame and to hate-monger against gays.

Here is the letter that the sociologists sent to James Wright:

Dear Dr. Wright,

We are a group of sociologists who are writing to ask you to retract the publication of Mark Regnerus’s “How different are the adult children of parents who have same-sex relationships? Findings from the New Family Structures Survey,” July 2012. We appreciate the internal review your journal conducted last year, but recent documents released through Freedom of Information Act requests as well as the first peer-reviewed article detailing the scientific flaws of the study indicate that this article should never have been published without serious revisions and thus should be retracted.

Recent Freedom of Information Act documents have revealed a variety of issues with Regnerus’s study and your publication’s role in validating it as scientific research. In particular, according to a recent article in the Huffington Post,*

“(t)he documents, recently obtained through public-records requests by The American Independent and published in collaboration with The Huffington Post, show that the Witherspoon Institute recruited a professor from a major university to carry out a study that was designed to manipulate public policy. In communicating with donors about the research project, Witherspoon’s president clearly expected results unfavorable to the gay-marriage movement.”

That professor was, of course, Mark Regnerus.

The following email from Witherspoon co-founder Luis Tellez, dated April 5, 2011, to a potential funder of Regnerus’s work ought to be enough to convince you that the research was severely compromised by a political agenda to influence the Supreme Court’s upcoming decisions regarding Proposition 8 and DOMA:

“As you know, the future of the institution of marriage at this moment is very uncertain. It is essential that the necessary data be gathered to settle the question in the forum of public debate about what kinds of family arrangement are best for society. That is what the NFSS is designed to do. Our first goal is to seek the truth, whatever that may turn out to be. Nevertheless, we are confident that the traditional understanding of marriage will be vindicated by this study as long as it is done honestly and well.”

Tellez also wrote

“It would be great to have this before major decisions of the Supreme Court but that is secondary to the need to do this and do it well… I would like you to take ownership and think of how you want it done… rather than someone like me dictating parameters… but of course, here to help.” [ellipses in original]“

This indicates a direct relationship between a funder with a clear political agenda, a clear expected outcome for the research, and the researcher himself.

Additional documents shed light on Professor W. Bradford Wilcox’s role in the study and his affiliation with the Witherspoon Institute. Wilcox was hired by UT to assist Regnerus with the data analysis and was simultaneously the director of Witherspoon’s Program on Family, Marriage and Democracy. The fact that Wilcox sits on the editorial board of your journal makes the issues surrounding this publication without revision, before the data was fully collected, and in a three-week turn around even more suspect. The further revelation that two of the three reviewers were part of the New Family Structure Survey compromises the peer review practices and does not represent best practices in journal editing. Despite being a clear conflict of interest, you allowed these reviewers to consider the validity of Regnerus’s paper that was itself reliant on this very study for its claims. In order to maintain the intellectual integrity of your journal, the article must be retracted.

Finally, the publication of the first scholarly analysis of the New Family Structures Survey shows serious and substantive flaws. Had your review process been conducted with reviewers who were experts in the field and who were unconnected to the study itself, it is likely that they would have caught these flaws and required substantive revisions of the original paper. The analysis, by Andrew J. Perrin, Philip N. Cohen and Neal Caren, will be published by Gay and Lesbian Mental Health and was properly reviewed. (A preprint of it can be found at the link below **) It is clear from this analysis that there were serious mistakes in the data collection and data analysis. As the authors state,

“Regnerus (2012a) fails to demonstrate that children from same-sex families display disadvantages.”

As you know, a similar conclusion was reached by the American Sociological Association, which filed in an amicus brief to the Reese v. Witherspoon case, a case that also admitted Regnerus’s study as scientifically valid because your journal has refused to retract it.

Dr. Wright, it is the understanding of this group of social scientists that had your journal taken the usual amount of time- 12 months in your journal’s case- to consider the Regnerus article, the article would not have seen the light of day in its current form. It was an error on the part of your journal in choosing reviewers who were not impartial and rushing to publication, an error that can only be corrected by retracting the article. We urge you to do just that.




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One Response to The Regnerus Study: ASA President Wants Regnerus’ Junk-Science Retracted

  1. etseq

    August 7, 2013 at 8:24 pm

    I know this is an old thread but I just ran across the most bizarre article that Regnerus published a few weeks ago that I must have missed. Mark is VERY worried about the disastrous consequences of gay marriage which he discusses in great detail. Using an odd mixture of sexist evolutionary psychology and homophobic of catholic natural law, he concludes that heterosexual marriage will become even more unstable due to increased infidelity by otherwise monogamous husbands and wives. This is based on the following FACTS:

    1. Lesbian relationships are inherently unstable because women don’t really want as much sex as men so when you put two women together, you get lesbian death bed and so lesbians have to find new partners frequently

    2. Gay male relationships are also inherently unstable but for the opposite reason – men cannot control their sexual desires so without a woman moderating, gay men either cheat or have open relationships.

    3. Allowing gays and lesbian relationships to be officially sanctioned and regarded as equal to heterosexuals will somehow convince heterosexuals that they don’t have to be monogamous to be married. Straight men will envy gay men and try to demand more partners from women and women who would normally constrain their male partners will suddenly give in because they are more likely to support same sex marriage in opinion polls.

    4. Adultery laws will have to be abolished because apparently adultery is defined as PIV (sorry have to abbreviate to avoid filters) heterosexual intercourse and we all know gays don’t have the correct body parts for this.

    Also, did you know that the increase in heterosexual anal sex was caused by gay men setting an example for their straight counterparts? Well, know you do!

    Finally, he even quotes Randy Shilts from The Band Played On who died in the freaking 1980s complaining about gay male sex habits that led to AIDS.

    You have to read this article to believe it – he apparently isn’t hiding his true opinions anymore. He tries to appear academic and cites lots of studies but in very misleading ways. What struck me the most wasn’t so much the homophobia but the sexism. He really believes in innate gender roles, that men only want sex and women have to basically to hold out until marriage otherwise men have no incentive to form relationships.