Conservatives Apply Faulty Regnerus Method To Other Same-Sex Parenting Studies

NOM's odd graphic implying children of same-sex parents do worse in school.

Anti-gay activists have been championing Mark Regnerus’ “family structures” study since its publication earlier this year, claiming that it provides evidence that same-sex parents are not good for children. An internal audit by the journal that published it found its findings to be “bullshit” because Regnerus’s method was to count any child whose parent had a same-sex relationship at any point in time as part of the sample. He has since admitted that his study wasn’t even about gay parenting since only one individual was actually raised by same-sex parents for their entire childhood, but now conservatives are trying to apply the same fraudulent standard to other studies.

The National Organization for Marriage is today promoting a new conservative analysis of a 2010 study that found children of same-sex parents experience no academic disadvantage. The analysis pulls the same trick Regnerus used by adding back all the children who lived in unstable households, but then making a generalized claim about the children of same-sex couples:

The 2010 study had excluded children who were not biologically related to the head of household and who were not in the same home for at least five years. This reduced “the sample size by more than one-half.” The 2012 study explains that putting the children who had been in unstable households (lived at the same address less than five years) back into the sample increases the sample “by more than 80 percent.” This fact alone seems important. The new study’s conclusion is that “children being raised by same-sex couples are 35 percent less likely to make normal progress through school.”

Like in the Regnerus study, there may be some very compelling evidence that the stability of a family unit can impact a child’s well-being, but that is a completely independent variable from the gender of the parents. This is a gross distortion of the data to conflate committed intact same-sex families with unstable, inconsistent family structures.

In many ways, this tactic mirrors claims more prominent in the past (though still heard today) that gay men are more likely to be pedophiles. In his debates with John Briggs in 1978, Harvey Milk pointed out that statistically, the overwhelming majority of pedophiles identified as heterosexual. Briggs still argued that children would somehow be safer if the gay teachers were removed from the equation, a claim with no logical justification other than anti-gay bias. Just as sexual orientation is not a predictor for pedophilia, studies consistently show that it is not a predictor for how effectively children will be raised. Using these unstable family samples to suggest otherwise is simply a new spin on an old classic tactic to demonize gays and lesbians and deny them equal protections.