Regnerus Gets His Talking Points

Regnerus Gets His Talking Points April 16, 2013

My former colleague at the American Independent News Network, Sofia Resnick, has been doing a lot of digging into that now-infamous parenting study by Mark Regnerus that is now being cited widely by the religious right against same-sex marriage. And she’s been finding some very interesting things. A month ago she reported that the study was rushed into publication to make sure it was out in time for the marriage equality cases before the Supreme Court. And last week she revealed that the Witherspoon Institute, the right wing think tank that funded the study, had prepared talking points for Regnerus to help him appear reasonable in the media.

“You are a researcher, not an advocate. You are simply reporting on what the data tells us.”

This is the first in a long list of media-training guidelines drafted for sociologist Mark Regnerus in preparation for last year’s release of his findings of the infamous “New Family Structures Study,” a flawed, politically motivated study that suggests that children of gay parents experience more unfavorable outcomes compared to children of heterosexual, married parents.

The guidelines instructed the University of Texas at Austin associate sociology professor to focus on the science of his study and to emphasize his apolitical views. Regnerus echoed many of these talking points when his study was first released, taking pains to maintain a neutral front on the gay-marriage debate. He stated in his papers and in interviews that the study was not about gay marriage or even about gay parenting. Regnerus continues to try to appear neutral on these issues in media interviews, recently telling The New York Times’ Bill Keller that, concerning gay marriage, his study “paints the reality of people’s lives as fairly complicated.”

But Regnerus’ more recent actions indicate many of his talking points were simply that: talking points.

Since those early days, Regnerus has signed on to a “friend of the court” brief in both gay-marriage cases recently taken up by the U.S. Supreme Court, urging the court to uphold California’s ban on same-sex marriage and the federal Defense of Marriage Act. He has blogged about his skepticism regarding the health of kids raised by gay parents, and he’s signed on to speak at a National Organization for Marriage-affiliated conference dedicated to arming college-age kids with research that opposes gay marriage.

None of this would necessarily be a problem if the study wasn’t so blatantly flawed in its methodology, comparing people from broken homes where a parent was gay (or had at any time had a gay relationship of any kind, even if the child did not live with them at the time) to those from intact, stable homes with both parents. This is the kind of thing that would earn you a failing grade if you proposed such a study in a sociology class, but this is a tenured professor doing the same thing and then using that flawed research to justify discrimination.

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