Although 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.
Despite 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.