Mark Regnerus’ flawed paper in the journal Social Science Research claiming that gay parenting harms children has been widely criticized by major medical organizations and over 200 professors across the country, while hate groups and ex-gay ministries have defended it. There are many indications that the paper was published as a political calculation, and the University of Texas has agreed to investigate whether it constitutes scientific misconduct. Now, a member of the journal’s editorial board has completed an internal audit of the study and found it to be “bullshit.”
Darren Sherkat, professor of sociology at Southern Illinois University at Carbondale, explained how the paper’s publication was handled. He found that its definition of “lesbian mothers” and “gay fathers” — as any parent who had any relationship of any length of time with a person of the same sex — was so “extremely misleading” that it should have “disqualified it immediately.” Only two of the study’s respondents actually lived with a lesbian couple for their entire childhoods. Sherkat also condemned Loren Marks’ accompanying paper critiquing same-sex parenting studies, calling it a “lowbrow meta-analysis of studies” that was “inappropriate for a journal that publishes original quantitative research.”
Sherkat writes that the editorial process was followed appropriately, but unfortunately, the unanimous support from the paper’s peer reviewers was biased by their connections to the study. Two of the six were actually paid consultants on the study, as were two of the three commentators in the journal. Editor James Wright should not be blamed for acting on the feedback he received, but Sherkat is still suspicious about Regnerus’s motivations:
There should be reflection about a conservative scholar garnering a very large grant from exceptionally conservative foundations to make incendiary arguments about the worthiness of LGBT parents — and putting this out in time to politicize it before the 2012 United States presidential election.
Indeed, given how quickly conservative news outlets and anti-gay groups pounced on the study as its champions, it’s hard to see it as anything but a political scheme, not a valid contribution to social science.