Matthew J. Franck

Mark Regnerus and the storm over his controversial gay parenting study

Matthew J. Franck
By Matthew Franck

November 19, 2012 (ThePublicDiscourse) - Seldom has the publication of a dry, factual report in sociology caused such a storm of controversy. In June 2012, the bimonthly peer-reviewed journal Social Science Research published an article by University of Texas sociologist Mark Regnerus titled, “How different are the children of parents who have same-sex relationships? Findings from the New Family Structures Study.” The answer to his title’s question was: quite a bit different, and most of the differences are not good.

Within minutes, it seemed, Professor Regnerus, a gifted and highly productive scholar with two previous books published on related subjects, was denounced as “anti-gay,” attacked personally and professionally, and his thoughtful, measured research conclusions were buried under an avalanche of invective, abuse, and misunderstanding. For the remainder of the summer months, Regnerus withstood an onslaught of criticism, but as the autumn arrived, it became clear that his reputation and the soundness of his research had been vindicated.

What had happened?

The editor of Social Science Research, Professor James D. Wright of the University of Central Florida, had known that Regnerus’s article would spark discussion about family and sexuality among sociologists. As he would later say himself when others complained that he was trying to drive up the readership of the journal, “guilty as charged.” What editor doesn’t want people reading and talking about what he works so hard to produce?

This is why Wright published, alongside Regnerus’s new research, a probing criticism of the inadequacy of nearly all previous research on the question of parenting by people in same-sex relationships, authored by Professor Loren Marks of Louisiana State University (who was not connected with Regnerus’s new research in any way). It’s also why Wright invited critiques to be published, in the same issue, by three experienced scholars in the sociology of the family (Paul Amato, David Eggebeen, and Cynthia Osborne), with rejoinders by Regnerus and Marks. It made for a very interesting exchange.

The June 2012 issue of SSR was a red-hot topic of controversy because Regnerus and Marks overthrew a “consensus” among sociologists on the “no differences” thesis—the view that there are no meaningful differences, in the life outcomes of children, between those raised by heterosexual parents and those raised by gay or lesbian ones.

In its most extreme form—one that is not even supported by the generally low-quality research published before Regnerus’s article—the “no differences” thesis holds that children raised by parents who have same-sex relationships do just as well as, or in some cases even better than, those raised in the intact biological family by their own natural parents who are and remain faithfully married to each other.

The American Psychological Association, despite the cagy wording of its bombshell assertion, was probably happy to invite this unwarranted inference in its 2005 legal brief, published to influence judicial deliberations in same-sex marriage lawsuits. The APA said “the evidence to date suggests that home environments provided by lesbian and gay parents are as likely as those provided by heterosexual parents to support and enable children’s psychosocial growth.” And who didn’t think of the Ozzie-and-Harriet natural family when reading “heterosexual parents” in that sentence?

But as Loren Marks showed, the 59 studies grounding the APA’s statement were all deeply flawed, with sampling and design problems, inadequate statistical rigor, and conclusions about “no differences” that could not be justifiably generalized to the larger population.

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And whereas Marks offered only well-founded criticism of previous research, Regnerus offered something new: the first research employing a large, random sample of the young adult population, directly asking them about their childhood experiences and their present state of life, across a range of variables touching on economic and educational success, romantic and sexual experience, substance abuse, experiences with crime and violence, and so forth.

Regnerus and his colleagues in the New Family Structures Study (NFSS), working with the research firm Knowledge Networks, screened more than 15,000 Americans between the ages of 18 and 39, and interviewed nearly 3,000 of them. The subjects’ family experiences were sorted into eight categories, ranging from the intact biological family (with the subject’s parents still together at the time of interview), across various family structures involving divorce, remarriage, adoption, and single-parenting, with two categories for subjects raised by mothers or fathers who had same-sex romantic relationships during their childhood.

The results were dismal for the “no differences” thesis: on 25 out of 40 outcomes variables, the children of mothers who had had lesbian relationships fared poorly compared to the children of intact biological families. And on 11 of the 40 outcomes, the children of fathers who had had gay relationships fared poorly on the same comparison. (For a summary of the study’s findings, see Ana Samuel’s Public Discourse article, “The Kids Aren’t All Right,” and this link here.)

Regnerus was cautious in his conclusions: he didn’t label poor outcomes as effects of parents’ sexuality, and noted that “a variety of forces uniquely problematic for child development in lesbian and gay families” could account for the phenomena. But, he concluded, “the empirical claim that no notable differences exist must go.”

The high quality of the New Family Structures Study’s research design, data collection, and findings, and the firmness of Regnerus’s conclusion that the “consensus” in sociology was exploded, only seem to have encouraged interested parties, in the academy and outside it, to attempt to debunk the NFSS. UCLA demographer Gary Gates assembled about 200 scholars to denounce Regnerus’s article, but to little substantive effect.

In the public arena, Regnerus saw his research crudely hashed over at The New Yorker, The New Republic, and the Huffington Post, among other places—and found himself caricatured as strapped to a Catherine wheel on the cover of the Weekly Standard. These are not normal experiences for your average stay-at-home sociology professor. Clearly Regnerus’s political adversaries saw much at stake in the public reception of his research. (For the legal stakes, see my Public Discourse essay, “Supreme Court Take Notice: Two Sociologists Shift the Ground of the Marriage Debate.”)

The two main criticisms of Regnerus’s article, repeated in numerous variations, are these. First, he had used the abbreviations “LM” (for “lesbian mother”) and “GF” (for “gay father”) to describe subjects who knew that their mother or father had a romantic same-sex relationship of any length before the subject turned 18.

The use of “LM” and “GF” was culpably misleading, critics claimed, because the category might include persons who never “identified” as lesbian or gay, and might only have had a “one-night stand” with a same-sex partner. The second criticism, closely related, was that in comparing these young people raised in “LM” and “GF” households, so defined, with those raised in “IBF” households—married heterosexual couples raising their own biological offspring and staying together throughout the subjects’ lives (even beyond their childhood, to the present)—Regnerus was comparing apples to oranges.

In their view, he should have compared children of IBF households with children of long-term, intact, stable same-sex couples who identify as gay or lesbian. Then, they were sure, the differences he found would largely disappear—as they claimed was shown by the previous research Regnerus and Marks had each criticized for their small, unrepresentative samples. What he was really doing, they claimed, was setting stable family situations next to unstable ones—and so stability was the real variable at work. To make it seem that the differences were “about” sexuality was worse than an error, critics claimed: this was culpable distortion of the social phenomena, a twisting of social science in the service of conservative ideology.

A third, more ad hominem criticism was that Regnerus received the majority of his grant funding from the Witherspoon Institute (publisher of Public Discourse), and a minority from the Bradley Foundation—both of them viewed as “conservative” institutions in their educational and philanthropic efforts. But Regnerus declared these facts in his original article, and told his readers that neither Witherspoon nor Bradley had any role in shaping the conduct or the conclusions of his research, which he has made wholly transparent. No one has ever gainsaid this avowal on his part. For my part, I can say that Regnerus had no input on my choice to write this account of the controversy or its content.

In the less responsible precincts of the blogosphere, Regnerus was the target of vicious calumnies along the lines described above, one of which led to the opening of an official “inquiry” by the University of Texas at Austin, where he teaches, to determine whether he had committed “scientific misconduct.”

At UT, the policy in such matters is that the merest squeak from any party alleging misconduct is enough to trigger a preliminary inquiry, which in 60 days must determine whether a full-blown investigation is warranted. The university swung into action, doing everything by the book, at no little inconvenience to Regnerus, but at the end of August the UT “research integrity officer” concluded that no plausible charge of misconduct could be substantiated. The university’s provost accepted that conclusion, and closed the matter without prejudice to Regnerus’s standing as a scholar and teacher.

Meanwhile SSR editor James Wright was under fire for publishing Regnerus’s article; for appearing to rush it to publication; and for placing Marks’s article alongside it. Opting for transparency at some risk to his own reputation, Wright asked a member of SSR’s editorial board to “audit” the process that led to the publication of Regnerus’s article.

The risk was that he chose Darren E. Sherkat, a sociologist at Southern Illinois University whom Regnerus would later describe (without fear of contradiction) as someone “who has long harbored negative sentiment about me.” Sherkat, speaking out of school, confidently told a writer for the Chronicle of Higher Education in July that Regnerus’s study was “bull****” when his audit was still in draft form and neither Regnerus nor Wright had written a response to it.

Sherkat’s audit and several other items of interest have now been published in the November 2012 issue of SSR, in a special 40-page section introduced by Wright. To his credit, when he sticks to the charge he was given, Sherkat finds that the journal’s editor did nothing wrong in publishing either Regnerus’s article or Marks’s.

Wright referred both papers to knowledgeable scholars of the subjects involved, who held varying views on the politics of same-sex unions, and who unanimously recommended their publication. No violations of normal procedure occurred; Sherkat says he “may well have made the same decisions” Wright did, given the reviews; and he dismisses as “ludicrous” any suggestion that the editor was up to anything political.

To his discredit, Sherkat, a sociologist of religion who does not appear to have done any research on family and sexuality issues (but for a single article studying how religion and political affiliation affect views of same-sex marriage), nonetheless appoints himself a final referee of the merits of Regnerus’s research—not a function he was asked to perform—and opines that it should not have been published.

James Wright, correctly, takes Sherkat’s conclusions as an auditor as vindication of his editorial performance, and rightly discounts his colleague’s attempt to set himself up as a post hoc referee with a veto over publishing Regnerus’s scholarship. If he sent the work to knowledgeable reviewers who unanimously said to publish it (and Wright notes that such unanimity is unusual), that seems to be the end of the affair.

But it isn’t. In the latest issue Wright chose to publish two significant new contributions to the discussion begun in June. The real issues with Sherkat and other critics are joined by Regnerus, who returns to the pages of SSR with a vigorous response and a re-analysis of his data, and by Professor Walter Schumm of Kansas State, who contributes an expert review of what we know from social science today about the interwoven variables of sexuality, family stability, and childrearing outcomes.

I’ll say more on these contributions in tomorrow’s essay.

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Matthew J. Franck is the Director of the William E. and Carol G. Simon Center on Religion and the Constitution at the Witherspoon Institute in Princeton, New Jersey, and Professor Emeritus of Political Science at Radford University. Reprinted with permission from The Public Discourse.

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Sandra Cano, ‘Mary Doe’ of Doe v. Bolton, RIP

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By Ben Johnson
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Sandra Cano, the woman whose divorce custody case morphed into a Supreme Court decision extending the “constitutional right” to an abortion throughout all nine months of pregnacy, has passed away of natural causes.

Cano was “Mary Doe” of Doe v. Bolton, the other case settled by the High Court on January 22, 1973. In 1970, at 22, Cano saw an attorney to divorce her husband – who had a troubled legal history – and regain custody of her children. The Georgia resident was nine weeks pregnant with her fourth child at the time.

Cano said once the attorney from Legal Aid, Margie Pitts Hames, deceptively twisted her desire to stay with her children into a legal crusade that has resulted in 56 million children being aborted.

“I was a trusting person and did not read the papers put in front of me by my lawyer,” Cano said in a sworn affidavit in 2003. “I did not even suspect that the papers related to abortion until one afternoon when my mother and my lawyer told me that my suitcase was packed to go to a hospital, and that they had scheduled an abortion for the next day.”

Cano was so disgusted by the prospect that she fled the state.

Yet the legal case went on, winding up before the Supreme Court the same day as Roe v. Wade. The same 7-2 majority agreed to Roe, which struck down state regulations on abortions before viability, and Doe, which allowed abortions until the moment of birth on the grounds of maternal “health” – a definition so broad that any abortion could be justified.

All the justices except Byron White and future Chief Justice William Rehnquist agreed that “physical, emotional, psychological, familial, and the woman's age” are all “factors [that] may relate to [maternal] health.”

“I was nothing but a symbol in Doe v. Bolton with my experience and circumstances discounted and misrepresented,” Cano said in 2003.

Two years later, she told a Senate subcommittee, “Using my name and life, Doe v. Bolton falsely created the health exception that led to abortion on demand and partial birth abortion... I only sought legal assistance to get a divorce from my husband and to get my children from foster care. I was very vulnerable: poor and pregnant with my fourth child, but abortion never crossed my mind.”

On the 30th anniversary of the case, she asked the Supreme Court justices to revisit the ruling that bears her pseudonym, but they denied her request. “I felt responsible for the experiences to which the mothers and babies were being subjected. In a way, I felt that I was involved in the abortions – that I was somehow responsible for the lives of the children and the horrible experiences of their mothers,” she explained.

By that time, both Cano and Norma McCorvey, Jane Roe of Roe v. Wade, opposed abortion and implored the Supreme Court to overturn the rulings made in their names. Both also said their pro-abortion attorneys had misrepresented or lied about their circumstances to make abortion-on-demand more sympathetic.

"I pledge that as long as I have breath, I will strive to see abortion ended in America,” Cano said in 1997.

Priests for Life announced last week that Cano was in a hospital in the Atlanta area, in critical condition with throat cancer, blood sepsis, and congestive heart failure.

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“My heart is broken that Sandra will never witness an end to abortion,” Janet Morana said. “She never wanted to have an abortion. She never had an abortion, and she certainly never wanted to be a part of the Supreme Court decision, Doe v. Bolton, that opened the gates for legal abortion at any time during pregnancy and for any reason.”

“Sandra’s work to overturn that devastating decision that was based on lies will not end with her death,” Fr. Frank Pavone said. “When life ultimately triumphs over death, Sandra will share in that victory.”

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We don’t kill problems anymore. We kill people, and pretend that it is the same thing.
Jonathon van Maren Jonathon van Maren Follow Jonathon

First we killed our unborn children. Now we’re killing our own parents.

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By Jonathon van Maren

In a culture that elevates transient pleasure as a “value,” while reducing “value” itself to a subjective and utilitarian status, I suppose it should not be surprising that the worth of human beings is now constantly in question.

We once lived in a culture that drafted laws to protect “dependents”: the very young, the very old, and the disabled. This was done in recognition of the fact that a human being’s increased vulnerability correspondingly heightens our moral responsibility to that human being.

Now, however, the exit strategists of the Sexual Revolution are burning the candle at both ends - abortion for children in the womb, euthanasia and “assisted suicide” for the old. Both children and elderly parents, you see, can be costly and time-consuming.

We don’t kill problems anymore. We kill people, and pretend that it is the same thing.

I noted some time ago that the concept of “dying with dignity” is rapidly becoming “killing with impunity,” as our culture finds all sorts of excuses to assist “inconvenient” people in leaving Planet Earth.

There is a similarity to abortion, here, too—our technologically advanced culture is no longer looking for compassionate and ethical solutions to the complex, tragic, and often heartbreaking circumstances. Instead, we offer the solution that Darkness always has: Death. Disability, dependence, difficult life circumstances: a suction aspirator, a lethal injection, a bloody set of forceps. And the “problem,” as it were, is solved.

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We don’t kill problems anymore. We kill people, and pretend that it is the same thing.

There is something chilling about the intimacy of these killings. As Gregg Cunningham noted, “Ours is the first generation that, having demanded the right to kill its children through elective abortion, is now demanding the right to kill its parents through doctor-assisted suicide.” The closest of human relationships are rupturing under the sheer weight of the selfishness and narcissism of the Me Generation.

The great poet Dylan Thomas is famous for urging his dying father to fight on, to keep breathing, to live longer:

Do not go gentle into that good night,
Old age should burn and rave at close of day;
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

Such sentiment is not present among the advocates of euthanasia. In fact, the tagline “dying with dignity” is starting to very much sound like, “Now don’t make a fuss, off with you now.” Consider this story in The Daily Mail from a few days ago:

An elderly husband and wife have announced their plans to die in the world's first 'couple' euthanasia - despite neither of them being terminally ill.

Instead the pair fear loneliness if the other one dies first from natural causes.

Identified only by their first names, Francis, 89, and Anne, 86, they have the support of their three adult children who say they would be unable to care for either parent if they became widowed.

The children have even gone so far as to find a practitioner willing to carry out the double killings on the grounds that the couple's mental anguish constituted the unbearable suffering needed to legally justify euthanasia.

… The couple's daughter has remarked that her parents are talking about their deaths as eagerly as if they were planning a holiday.

John Paul [their son] said the double euthanasia of his parents was the 'best solution'.

'If one of them should die, who would remain would be so sad and totally dependent on us,' he said. 'It would be impossible for us to come here every day, take care of our father or our mother.'

I wonder why no one considers the fact that the reason some elderly parents may experience “mental anguish” is that they have come to the sickening realization that their grown children would rather find an executioner to dispatch them than take on the responsibility of caring for their parents. Imagine the thoughts of a mother realizing that the child she fed and rocked to sleep, played with and sang to, would rather have her killed than care for her: that their relationship really does have a price.

This is why some scenes in the HBO euthanasia documentary How To Die In Oregon are so chilling. In one scene, an elderly father explains to the interviewer why he has procured death drugs that he plans to take in case of severe health problems. “I don’t want to be a burden,” he explains while his adult daughter nods approvingly, “It’s the decent thing to do. For once in my life I’ll do something decent.”

No argument from the daughter.

If we decide in North America to embrace euthanasia and “assisted suicide,” we will not be able to unring this bell. Just as with abortion and other manifestations of the Culture of Death, the Sexual Revolutionaries work hard to use heart-rending and emotional outlier examples to drive us to, once again, legislate from the exception.

But for once, we have to start asking ourselves if we really want to further enable our medical community to kill rather than heal. We have to ask ourselves if the easy option of dispatching “burdensome” people will not impact our incentive to advance in palliative care. And we have to stop simply asking how someone in severe pain might respond to such a legal “service,” and start asking how greedy children watching “their” inheritance going towards taking proper care of their parents.

And to the pro-life movement, those fighting to hold back the forces of the Culture of Death—the words of Dylan Thomas have a message for us, too.

Do not go gentle into that good night…
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

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Luka Magnotta http://luka-magnotta.com
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Gay porn star admits dismembering ex-lover and molesting his corpse on film

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By Thaddeus Baklinski

Montreal gay porn actor Luka Magnotta admits killing and dismembering his ex-lover and molesting his corpse on film, but pled not guilty on Monday to all five charges filed against him.

Magnotta shocked the world in June 2012 by allegedly killing and cannibalizing a 33-year-old university student from China, Jun Lin, then posting a video of his actions and the results online. He later hid some of the dismembered parts in the garbage, but also mailed parcels containing body parts to political offices in Ottawa and schools in Vancouver.

He was charged with first-degree murder, committing an indignity to a body, publishing obscene material, mailing obscene and indecent material, and criminally harassing Prime Minister Stephen Harper and other MPs.

Magnotta's lawyer Luc Leclair is basing the not guilty plea on the defendant having a history of mental illness, thus making him not criminally responsible.

Crown prosecutor Louis Bouthillier said he intends to prove that Magnotta planned the alleged murder well before it was committed.

"He admits the acts or the conducts underlying the crime for which he is charged. Your task will be to determine whether he committed the five offences with the required state of mind for each offence," Quebec Superior Court Justice Guy Cournoyer instructed the jury, according to media reports.

However, some authorities have pointed out that Magnotta’s behavior follows a newly discernible trend of an out-of-control sexual deviancy fueled by violent pornography.

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Dr. Judith Reisman, an internationally-recognized expert on pornography and sexuality, told LifeSiteNews in 2012 she believes Magnotta’s behavior “reflects years of brain imprinting by pornography.”

“His homosexual cannibalism links sex arousal with shame, hate and sadism,” said Reisman. Although cannibalism is not as common as simple rape, she added, “serial rape, murder, torture of adults and even of children is an inevitable result of our ‘new brains,’ increasingly rewired by our out-of-control sexually exploitive and sadistic mass media and the Internet.”

In their 2010 book “Online Killers,” criminology researchers Christopher Berry-Dee and Steven Morris said research has shown “there are an estimated 10,000 cannibal websites, with millions ... who sit for hours and hours in front of their computer screens, fantasizing about eating someone.” 

This underworld came to light in a shocking case in Germany in 2003, when Armin Meiwes was tried for killing his homosexual lover Bernd Jürgen Brandes, a voluntary fetish victim whom Meiwes picked up through an Internet forum ad seeking “a well-built 18- to 30-year-old to be slaughtered and then consumed.”

After the warrant was issued for his arrest, Magnotta was the target of an international manhunt for several days until he was arrested in Berlin, where police say he was found looking at online pornography alongside news articles about himself at an Internet café.

The trial is expected to continue to mid-November, with several dozen witnesses being called to testify before the jury of six men and eight women.

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