Mark Regnerus’s “New Family Structures Study” has been widely cited by conservatives as evidence that children do worse with same-sex parents, but it has been even more widely debunked as junk science by professional medical organizations. Evidence has been mounting that the study was concocted by the anti-gay Witherspoon Institute for political purposes, and the latest evidence shows that Regnerus was actually coached on how to talk to the media about the study.
The American Independent found a media guide that somebody provided Regnerus about how to talk about the study, including how to handle accusations that it’s biased because Witherspoon’s funding. Here are few of the talking points he was fed (and clearly used in media interviews after the study’s publication):
- “The study reveals many serious and concerning differences between young adults who have been raised in same-sex households and those raised in intact, traditional families. The data shows that in no measurement are those raised in a same-sex household better off than those raised in an intact family, and are clearly worse off in many key measurement.” [sic]
- “For many years, gay advocates have claimed that there are no meaningful differences between children of same-sex couples and other children. This study shows this not to be true.”
- “This study is not about same-sex marriage. It does not attempt to assess the differences between those gay couples who have married and those who have not. It is focused on the difference between young adults raised in a same-sex household and those raised in an intact families. [sic] The study finds several significant differences.”
- “Every academic study is paid for by someone. Witherspoon approached us with a desire to independently examine the differences between young adults raised in a same-sex household and those raised in traditional, intact families. They had no input into the design of the study, nor input into the researchers who actually conducted the study, nor the ability to influence the presentation of the results of the study. Indeed, the study was conducted by researchers on both sides of the gay marriage debate, and the study itself has been made available to outsiders to review and critique. Witherspoon has played no role in the outcome of this study.”
It’s unclear who provided Regnerus with this media training guide, but the document reveals a clear intention to distort the data. The largest flaw is that it compared broken homes in which a parent had a same-sex relationship with intact opposite-sex homes. Only two of the individuals in the study were actually raised from birth by committed same-sex parents, hardly enough to draw any conclusions about the outcomes of same-sex parenting. In these talking points, “same-sex household” and “intact families” are presented as mutually exclusive, ignoring the many intact same-sex families and broken opposite-sex households.
Regnerus was also coached to not take any political positions so as to preserve the impression that the study was not biased. More recently, it’s become evident that this was also a ruse and that Regnerus clearly opposes same-sex marriage in just the same way as the anti-gay organizations who cite his study at every turn. He signed a Supreme Court amicus brief opposing same-sex marriage, he’s speaking at an upcoming National Organization for Marriage conference, and he’s even openly defended his study’s claims about same-sex parenting’s inferiority.
Looking back, it’s easy to see Regnerus struggling to stick to the talking points, especially when he admitted in October that he couldn’t draw conclusions about the parenting of gays and lesbians because he didn’t even ask for the sexual orientation of the parents in the study. Now that the study has been thoroughly debunked and Regnerus has stopped pretending to be neutral, they no longer seem to apply at all.