Mark Regnerus testified as an expert witness in a lawsuit challenging Michigan’s ban on same-sex marriage and second parent adoption on Tuesday. It didn’t go well. On the same day he testified, his department at UTexas released a statement distancing themselves from his atrocious study. And it didn’t hold up well under cross examination.
The most damning criticism centers on Regnerus’ admission that he deliberately structured his study to compare children whose parents had a same-sex relationship with those who grew up in opposite-sex households undisturbed by separation or divorce.
In a friend-of-the-court brief filed in the case in which U.S. Supreme Court justices struck down a federal law barring recognition, the America Sociological Association charged that Regnerus had stacked the deck by comparing children of intact opposite-sex families with children whose families were distinguished mainly by their instability. In many cases, the association noted, those identified as children of gay or lesbian parents had never even lived with that parent.
Under cross-examination in Friedman’s courtroom Tuesday, Regnerus conceded that more than half of the respondents he classified as children of “gay dads” or “lesbian moms” were the offspring of failed heterosexual marriages, and that only two of the 3,000 respondents he interviewed had been raised by same-sex partners who remained together throughout their childhoods.
Like their peers in stable opposite-sex families, Regnerus conceded, both respondents who grew up in stable same-sex households “looked pretty good” in his study’s measures of adult outcomes.
The sociology department is right to distance themselves from this. It’s a terrible study designed to reach a predetermined conclusion and the data had to be distorted for that purpose. The irony is that most of the children in the study from “gay dads” or “lesbian moms” were actually the product of a marriage where one of the partners was hiding, or denying to themselves and others, their homosexuality. That situation is almost always terrible for everyone involved. And guess what? Letting gay people get married and accepting them as equal is the way to prevent that from happening.