Debunked Antigay Parenting Study Commissioned to Sway Supreme Court

Documents recently released by the University of Texas show that a widely discredited study on family structures by associate professor Mark Regnerus was funded by a right-wing antigay group and intended to provide evidence that gay and lesbian parents are inadequate in order to present that argument to the Supreme Court.

BY Sunnivie Brydum

March 11 2013 12:55 PM ET

The debunked parenting study authored by University of Texas associate professor Mark Regnerus — which claimed that parents who've had a same-sex relationship are lesser-quality parents than those who are married heterosexual couples — was commissioned by a right-wing think tank with the intention of swaying upcoming decisions regarding marriage equality at the Supreme Court, reports The American Independent in conjunction with The Huffington Post.

In a review of documents obtained through a Freedom of Information Act request, the Independent's Sophia Resnick discovered that the antigay, right-wing Witherspoon Institute "recruited a professor from a major university to carry out a study that was designed to manipulate public policy. In communicating with donors about the research project, Witherspoon's president clearly expects results unfavorable to the gay-marriage movement."

Resnick notes that the family structures study was rushed through the academic review process, as it was submitted for publication before Regnerus and his team had finished collecting data. 

And from the beginning, Witherspoon president Luis Tellez made it clear to Regnerus that he wanted results published in time to submit them as evidence to the Supreme Court while it considers two cases related to same-sex marriage; Windsor v. U.S. challenges the so-called Defense of Marriage Act, and Hollingsworth v. Perry contends that California's Proposition 8, which rescinded marriage equality, is unconstitutional.

"Naturally we would like to move along as expeditiously as possible," Tellez wrote to Regnerus in an email obtained by the Independent. "It would be great to have this before major decisions of the Supreme Court,"

Even the editor of the journal that published the results of the Regnerus study told Resnick he resented the information being used to weigh in on a matter of "civil rights, i.e., a legal question, not something to be 'resolved' by empirical research."

Just one day after the results of the controversial parenting study were released to the public, the research was used — and misrepresented — in a federal court brief defending the constitutionality of the Defense of Marriage Act.

The study's author has also admitted to faulty data, noting that his study compared married opposite-sex couples with children to parents who said they had ever had a same-sex encounter, but many of whom were single parents. In fact, the study only included two households headed by stable, two-parent, same-sex couples. 

Read more of Resnick's exhaustive analysis of the study's flaws and biases here.

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