American Independent, 7/5/2012 [Archive]

Gay Marriage Foes Tout Conservative- Backed Parenting Study

Gay Marriage Foes Tout Conservative-Backed Parenting Study

By Andy Birkey, The American Independent

A dozen groups fighting against marriage equality are touting a controversial study about gay and lesbian parenting that was funded by two conservative organizations.

The study, released last month, quickly became a political weapon in campaigns for ballot measures that would ban same-sex marriage in several states. Groups with close relationships to the study's funders immediately began promoting it as evidence that being raised by gays and lesbians might harm children. And some of these same groups now hope to use the study to convince courts that same-sex marriage bans are constitutional.

Conducted by University of Texas sociologist Mark Regnerus, the study compared the children of families in which one biological parent had a same-sex relationship at some point to people who spent their entire childhood in intact opposite-sex households with both biological parents. Regnerus found that the children whose parents had a same-sex relationship fared poorly by comparison.

The study's methodology -- comparing biologically intact families to families that may or may not have been intact -- provoked criticism from many quarters.

Writing at Slate, William Saletan observed that Regnerus used a "loaded classification system" that "produced predictable results."

"These findings shouldn't surprise us, because this isn't a study of gay couples who decided to have kids," wrote Saletan. "It's a study of people who engaged in same-sex relationships -- and often broke up their households -- decades ago."

He added, "What the study shows, then, is that kids from broken homes headed by gay people develop the same problems as kids from broken homes headed by straight people." Saletan suggested, contrary to the opinion of conservative groups, that the study might actually bolster the argument for gay marriage.

That hasn't stopped conservative groups from using Regnerus' study to oppose gay marriage.

The National Organization for Marriage (NOM) -- which has close ties to both of the conservative groups that funded the study -- has already published numerous blog posts and emails highlighting the results. NOM Chairman Emeritus and co-founder Robert George helped found the Witherspoon Institute, which contributed $695,000 to the study. George also sits on the board of the Bradley Foundation, which gave Regnerus another $90,000 for the study.

NOM has also been heavily involved at the state-level, giving substantial amounts of money and other support to local groups fighting against same-sex marriage.

Not long after Regnerus' research was published, Minnesota for Marriage -- a group campaigning for a state constitutional amendment barring same-sex marriage -- promoted the results of the study. Groups working on ballot-measure campaigns in Washington and Maine also highlighted the research.

Opponents of same-sex marriage are also planning to use the study in their efforts to defend against lawsuits challenging the constitutionality of same-sex marriage bans.

"I think it's going to be important in the legal cases as they progress," said Maggie Gallagher, who co-founded NOM along with George.

The Witherspoon Institute's Matthew J. Franck agreed that Regnerus' work, along with another recent study, would be a valuable asset in the courts.

"How much does this new study matter for the legal debate over same-sex marriage?" wrote Franck. "A very great deal. Same-sex marriage advocates have argued in state and federal courts that traditional marriage laws have no 'rational basis,' or that they fail some other more stringent form of 'scrutiny' under constitutional provisions guaranteeing due process and the equal protection of the laws."

Franck added that as lawsuits over federal and state bans on same-sex marriage work their way to the Supreme Court, "the counsels of good social science can be added to the standard norms of constitutionalism to counsel against the willful judicial invention of a right to same-sex marriage."

And indeed, just days after the results of Regnerus' research became available, a conservative group called the American College of Pediatricians cited it in a court brief calling for the Defense of Marriage Act -- the federal law defining marriage as a union between a man and woman -- to be upheld.


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This column has been edited by the author. Representations of fact and opinions are solely those of the author.

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