Early this week we learned that Mark Regnerus’ New Family Structures Study — widely discredited by the mainstream academic and scientific communities but breathlessly touted by the anti-gay right wing as evidence supposedly showing same-sex couples make inferior parents — was fatally flawed from the beginning.
Documents first obtained by the American Independent‘s Sofia Resnick revealed that the NFSS’s conservative funders, particularly the anti-gay Witherspoon Institute, were intimately involved in every stage of the study. Long before any data had been collected, the NFSS was being pitched to potential funders as a way for supporters of so-called “traditional marriage” to harm the marriage equality movement. And perhaps most damning of all, the documents show that Witherspoon President Luis Tellez emailed Regnerus (left) before his “research” had even begun and told him they wanted the study finished and published in time to influence “major decisions of the Supreme Court.”
Buried deeper in the documents is another interesting tidbit. As Resnick notes, Regnerus attempted in 2010 to recruit several scholars with expertise studying LGBT families to assist in the NFSS. Among the scholars he contacted were Michael Rosenfeld, a social demographer at Stanford University, and Abbie Goldberg, a psychology professor and LGBT parenting scholar at Clark University.
When Rosenfeld and Goldberg both expressed concerns about the study’s objectivity because of its anti-gay right-wing funding, Regnerus assured them that he had no intention of taking part in a culture-war debate over LGBT rights and that his allegiance was strictly to the science. In an email to Goldberg, Regnerus even implied that he wasn’t likely to continue working on the topic of same-sex parenting after the NFSS was concluded:
Translation: my motives are pure, my integrity is unimpeachable, and I’m doing this without any agenda whatsoever, solely because I was asked and I’m being paid. Again, Regnerus reassured Goldberg:
Goldberg ultimately declined Regnerus’ offer to be a paid consultant on his study, telling the American Independent,
My concerns were significant enough that I did not feel that my advice would be appropriately used. I gave him feedback that he ultimately did not use, so it seems like it was a good decision.
In an email to Regnerus, Rosenfeld specifically mentioned the Witherspoon Institute, remarking that it seemed to him like an “advocacy organization.” Regnerus prevaricates in his response, misrepresenting his political leanings:
“I myself am a moderate and largely apolitical.” You caught that, right?
Now contrast that with what Alvin McEwen uncovered at Holy Bullies and Headless Monsters: Mark Regnerus, the supposedly disinterested, apolitical moderate with unimpeachable integrity and absolutely no agenda whatsoever… is a confirmed speaker at a so-called “protect marriage conference” in San Diego this May. The conference, titled “It Takes a Family to Raise a Village,” is being presented by the Ruth Institute, which is a project of the National Organization for Marriage’s “Marriage Education Fund.”
The conference is geared toward students between the ages of 18 and 30, and as Alvin reports, it is decidedly not moderate or apolitical. From a March 13 email from Ruth Institute President Jennifer Roback Morse (left):
This seminar-style conference brings together young adults, 18-30, for an intense inter-disciplinary, inter-faith program that will help them make an informed and compassionate case for natural marriage, one man, one woman for life. Our graduates have gone on to form clubs, start their own blogs, be guests on radio programs and write for established internet outlets.
And look who’s helping the Ruth Institute make that case for “natural marriage:”
Mark Regnerus, Ph.D. He is associate professor of sociology at the University of Texas at Austin, and a research associate of the university’s Population Research Center. His areas of research are sexual behavior and family formation. He is the author of the important new work on adult children of parents who had same sex relationships. He is also the author of two books on the sexual behavior of teenagers and young adults.
So no, Mark Regnerus isn’t apolitical or moderate, nor has he moved on to other, more interesting issues after publishing his bogus “study.” To the contrary, he’s hitting the right-wing speaker circuit, headlining conferences sponsored by an arm of the National Organization for Marriage (whose co-founder, Robert George, also co-founded the Witherspoon Institute). It’s a big incestuous circle, folks. Regnerus isn’t objective, he has a clear agenda. He’s an anti-gay conservative who supports marriage discrimination and who sacrificed his scholarly credibility by producing a junk-science hit piece in a slimy attempt to derail the push toward equal marriage rights for all Americans.
For further information about Mark Regnerus and his “New Family Structures Study,” I suggest readers turn to the writings of Scott Rose at the New Civil Rights Movement. Rose has been on this for months and has arguably done more than anyone else to keep the story alive.