Probing Deeper Into the Regnerus Study

mark_regnerusAlthough University of Texas researcher Mark Regnerus’s New Family Structures Study — which purports to show that children of same-sex couples do worse than children raised by opposite-sex couples — has been widely discredited by the mainstream academic and scientific communities, it’s breathlessly touted by opponents of marriage equality as a reason for upholding an exclusionary definition of marriage.

The NFSS was repeatedly cited in briefs filed with the Supreme Court by proponents of marriage discrimination, including Catholic, Mormon, and evangelical groups, in the run-up to the Prop 8 and DOMA arguments last month. The American College of Pediatricians, a religious-right fringe group which masquerades as a legitimate medical association, referenced the NFSS in its brief in another DOMA case, Golinski v. United States Office of Personnel Management; equality opponents have also cited it in a state-level marriage case in Nevada.

Regnerus’s study is also influencing members of the judiciary, as its right-wing funders hoped it would. For example, U.S. District Court Judge Alan Kay cited the dubious study last year in his decision to reject a challenge to Hawaii’s discriminatory marriage law. And perhaps most disturbing of all, junk social science “research” on same-sex parenting outcomes was referenced by at least one Supreme Court Justice at oral arguments last month.

journal_social_science_researchDespite the wide reach of the New Family Structures Study, much about the process by which it was peer-reviewed and published by the journal Social Science Research remains unknown. We know that the timetable was extraordinarily compressed — according to data from the University of Texas and SSR, Regnerus submitted his paper 20 days before the end of the data collection period and 23 days before the data file was delivered to the university. Sounds fishy, doesn’t it? And the entire process, including the paper’s initial submission, review, revision, and acceptance, took place within six weeks. But why? What are the reasons for moving so quickly? Did Regnerus just catch a lucky break, or is there more to the story? We already know that his funders had an anti-gay agenda and the study itself was plagued by troubling conflicts of interest; were the peer review and publication processes similarly compromised?

Last month, I filed a Freedom of Information Act request with the University of Central Florida, which houses Social Science Research, seeking public records relating to the peer review and publication of the New Family Structures Study. My goal is simply to discover the truth: whether everything was above board and best practices and ethical standards were followed, or whether something more sinister occurred. The documents I requested from UCF may help to answer these important questions.

The university denied my request on April 1, so I’ve teamed up with noted Florida public records and civil rights attorneys Andrea Flynn Mogensen and Victor Chapman to file a lawsuit seeking the release of the records under Florida’s Sunshine Law and Public Records Act. The suit was filed yesterday in the Ninth Judicial Circuit in Orlando, Florida; case number is pending assignment.

As Ms. Mogensen notes, the records are supposed to be open to any citizen who wishes to inspect them, and we intend to defend my constitutional right to do so.

15 comments

  1. Pingback: Lawsuit Seeks Release of Public Records on Controversial Same-Sex Parenting Study | John M. Becker
  2. Scott Rose

    It is beyond a reasonable doubt that there was no valid peer review of the Regnerus study. When people use the word “bias” in this context, they might immediately think of an anti-gay bias, but in fact in academic peer review there are other types of bias. Fiduciary bias is prime among them. Researchers who have been paid to consult on a study are “biased” in favor of the study being published, because, for instance if they consulted on three studies in a row that were rejected from publication, their worth as a consultant would go down. We know as a matter of documented fact that two paid NFSS consultants were permitted to do peer review. SSR editor James Wright has lied to the public, saying that this is a normal procedure. Meanwhile, though, Tony N. Brown, who is editor in chief of the American Sociological Association’s scientific journal, says that editors must always assign peer review to people who have no conflicts of interest with either the researcher or his funders. It should additionally be noted that in the entire July 2012 issue of SSR, themed to Regnerus’s “gay parenting study,” not a single LGBT-sciences-experienced researcher wrote any of the papers or commentaries, or did peer review. That in itself is way beyond “fishy.” It is as though Wright published a special issue on Hispanic Americans but not a one of the researchers understood Spanish.

    • Jason Chenard

      Put another way, if it looks like a duck, walks like a duck, and quacks like a duck…

      Paid peer review is not really peer review at all, is it?

      Good luck, Wayne. Take ‘em to the mat.

  3. Pingback: A Case to Watch | ENDABlog 2.0
  4. Pingback: Journalist sues University of Central Florida for docs on publication of flawed parenting study « Florida Society of News Editors
  5. Dana

    It is difficult to overstate the importance of your efforts. This was an unprecedented, coordinated effort to essentially purchase a research outcome and then immediately incorporate that outcome into judicial and legislative action against gay people. There has never been anything like it, and if this cynical and dishonest gambit is allowed to succeed, it could well be the beginning of a regular practice. Thank God you are on the case, because, as usual, our major organizations are not.

    One point: there should be relevant documents at University of Texas and University of Virginia. It is unclear to what extent the previous FOIA requests of the American Independent reporter Sofia Resnick yielded a complete response. These universities may well have thrown out objections and only provided a partial production of documents. Please don’t leave these stones unturned and please call on the community for help if you need it. HRC and the completely useless Task Force should be offering to pay for the legal costs.

  6. Pingback: Lawsuit Seeks Release of Public Records on Controversial Same-Sex Parenting Study
  7. Pingback: Controversial gay marriage study provokes lawsuitWinToMac | WinToMac
  8. JeffreyRO5

    It appears that Brad Wilcox, at UVa, was pulling the strings, orchestrating various milestones in this conspiracy to smear gay parents. I wonder what will, or at least should, become of him.

  9. Pingback: Back2Stonewall Contributor John Becker Sues For Public Records Over Mark Regnerus' Anti-Gay Study
  10. Pingback: investigating regnerus | orgtheory.net

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