Mark Regnerus Admits His ‘Family Structures’ Study Wasn’t About Gay Parenting

Mark Regnerus’s “family structure” study has been a hot topic since it was released in June, namely because every single anti-gay conservative organization has cited it as evidence that same-sex couples are inferior parents. An internal audit by the academic journal that originally published it found the conclusions to be “bullshit” because Regnerus’s criteria was whether a kid’s parent ever had a same-sex relationship, regardless of how long it lasted or what role in played in parenting. In a new interview with Focus on the Family — a group invested in continuing to cite the study to oppose LGBT equality — Regnerus admits that the foundation of his study is too weak to draw the conclusions that many have made:

REGNERUS: I got taken to task for leaning on young adults’ assessments of their parents’ relationships. I didn’t ask them whether they thought their mom was a lesbian or if their dad was gay. Because, in part, self-identity is a different kind of thing than behavior, and lot of people weren’t “out” in that era. I think we can all think of moms and dads when we were growing up that we either knew or suspected were gay or lesbian, but never “came out of the closet,” so to speak. So, I didn’t want to make the assumption that these young adults would identify their parents as gay or lesbian, so I kept the focus on relationship behavior. […]

And when pushed, a lot of people who were critics of mine will say: “Yeah, we know that, obviously, family structure matters,” and then they’ll complain, “Why didn’t you find many stably coupled lesbians?” Well, they just were not that common in the nationally representative population. There were two cases where they said the mom and her partner lived together for 18 years. There was another several who lived together for 15 or 13 years. So, stability in the sense of long-term was not common. And frankly, it’s not all that common among heterosexual population. I take pains in the study to say this is not about saying gay or lesbian parents are inherently bad. […]

I’d be more careful about the language I used to describe people whose parents had same-sex relationships. I said “lesbian mothers” and “gay fathers,” when in fact, I don’t know about their sexual orientation; I do know about their same-sex relationship behavior. But as far as the findings themselves, I stand behind them.

So, Regnerus’ study was not about parents who openly identify as gay or lesbian. It was not about same-sex couples in long-term relationships raising children together. Regnerus even admits “this is not about saying gay or lesbian parents are inherently bad,” because he knows has no foundation on which to make such a claim. This was a study about unstable couples, possibly in sham marriages, who may have dabbled in same-sex relationships outside of their original marriage at a time when there was no recognition for same-sex couples anywhere in the country. In others words, the study’s results have zero implication for conversations in 2012 about out, committed same-sex couples who are already raising children.


Focus on the Family may be invested in the fraudulent portrayal of Regnerus’s study, but by conducting this interview to draw more attention to it, the anti-gay organization managed to prove that the research has no applicability to the marriage equality and same-sex adoption debates to which it has been applied.