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Opinion: In Regnerus Study Scandal, Anti-Gay Rights Funder Manipulated Data

by Scott Rose on September 11, 2012

in Analysis,Bigotry Watch,Discrimination,Scott Rose

University of Texas at Austin researcher Mark Regnerus took $785,000 in funding from anti-gay-rights groups — including the Witherspoon Institute and the Bradley Foundation — to carry out a study on same-sex parents’ child outcomes.

Regnerus alleges to have proven correlations between same-sex parents and negative child outcomes.

Among scientists with expertise in family sociology generally and same-sex parenting in particular, however, Regnerus’s study has overwhelmingly been judged scientifically invalid.

For Regnerus as a non-topic-expert to presume to make a study of same-sex parenting is preposterous.

Yes, he is a sociologist. No, he does not have the first clue about legitimate science involving homosexuality, homosexuals or same-sex parenting. To begin to comprehend how irresponsible Regnerus is in this, think of a scholar of English literature, with no knowledge of either Japanese or Japanese literature, presuming to carry out a professional-level study on Japanese literature.

Withespoon’s top-most officials also hold positions of authority with other anti-gay-rights groups.  Witherspoon senior fellow Robert P. George, for example, is co-founder and current mastermind of the National Organization for Marriage, and the Family Research Council, an SPLC-certified anti-gay hate group. Both NOM and FRC have been heavily promoting the Regnerus study in anti-gay-rights political contexts in the 2012 elections.

In Section 2 of his study – titled Data collection, measures, and analytic approach – Regnerus alleges that:

the funding sources played no role at all in the design or conduct of the study, the analyses, the interpretations of the data, or in the preparation of this manuscript. ”

However, documentation reveals that a top Witherspoon Institute official — W. Bradford Wilcox — assisted Regnerus with data analysis for his study.

Witherspoon’s 2010 IRS 990 form shows that Wilcox is Director of the Witherspoon program that is Regnerus’s chief funder; the program for Marriage, Family and Democracy.

At this link, contracts for two Regnerus study consultants may be viewed; one for Paul Amato, the other for Wilcox.

The Wilcox contract states that Wilcox was and is being paid to assist Regnerus with data analysis.

The public does not know how Regnerus derived his published study’s numerical “findings” from his raw data. The raw data have not yet been made public. What the public so far may access, is Regnerus’s study Codebook and the numerical figures given in his published study.

The numbers given in Regnerus’s Codebook do not match the numbers given in his published study. Regnerus told a source that the lack of correspondence is due to the Codebook containing “unweighted” data and the published study containing “weighted” data.

Weighting” is one among many different options sociologists may employ, ideally in order to have their findings be as close to accurate as possible for whichever populations and characteristics they are studying.

However, Regnerus’s raw data as recorded in his Codebook are profoundly dubious. For example, consider the Regnerus Codebook response rates for Regnerus’s study question “Have you ever masturbated?”

Out of 2,988 respondents between 18 and 39-years-old, 620 said that they had never once in their lives masturbated.

Regnerus makes the claim that all of the results of his study have “statistical power” and apply to all young adult children of same sex parents in the United States.

Yet, if Regnerus’s “statistical power” claim were correct for his data, then one would have to believe it true that out of every 2,988 Americans between 18 and 39-years-old, 620 had never once in their lives masturbated.

On the basis of such blatant error, Regnerus and his funders have been using the study to demonize gay people in political contexts.

Regnerus, Wilcox and the University of Texas at Austin were asked to comment on Regnerus’s apparent lie about none of his funders having been involved with his data analyses.

As of publication time, none of those parties had responded.

 

New York City-based novelist and freelance writer Scott Rose’s LGBT-interest by-line has appeared on Advocate.com, PoliticusUSA.com, The New York Blade, Queerty.com, Girlfriends and in numerous additional venues. Among his other interests are the arts, boating and yachting, wine and food, travel, poker and dogs. His “Mr. David Cooper’s Happy Suicide” is about a New York City advertising executive assigned to a condom account.

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{ 3 comments }

JayJonson September 12, 2012 at 10:47 am

I love that statistic for masturbation. That should be trumpeted over and over again. Clearly, not only does the study lack any validity about the parenting skills of gay men and lesbians, but it also lacks any validity about anything. Their sample is certainly not representative, and if they will lie about their masturbatory habits, why would one trust anything else they say? As for Regnerus and his funders, they are beyond contempt.

Seatnai September 12, 2012 at 2:19 pm

Regnerus should be ejected from the academic community for falsifying data to be used as fuel for hate group propaganda. The University of Texas should have its accreditation suspended as punishment.

Mykelbarber September 13, 2012 at 11:53 am

Seems that most of the smell of hypocrisy and hate comes out of Texass and it's stinking up America.

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