Many of the recent state-based proposed laws granting marriage or adoption rights for same-sex couples have passed, despite references to Mark Regnerus’ “New Family Structures Study.” But Regnerus’ study is continually being cited in new and pending bills. We have cited several new, as well as older, references to Regnerus’ study and will continue to document how Regnerus and others are using his study to fight against LGBT equality nationwide.
Hawaii—Mark Regnerus’ study has had significant influence in the Aloha State in the last two years. Recently, the University of Texas at Austin associate sociology professor used his own flawed research to speak out against a state bill to legalize same-sex marriage. On Oct. 23, Regnerus testified against the bill before an “information briefing panel” organized by Republican state Reps. Gene Ward and Bob McDermott. The panel included five men – none from Hawaii – described as “experts in the field,” who led a three-and-a half-hour fear-mongering discussion. They claimed that legalizing same-sex marriage in Hawaii might lead to educators teaching second-graders how to have anal sex; could impact the recognition of Hawaiian marriages; and of course, and would jeopardize children. Watch the taped panel session here; Regnerus’ statement begins at around 01:32:00.
The thrust of Regnerus’ well-received speech was that – based on research, his own and others– same-sex relationships are inherently unstable, which is bad for children. He also said children have a right to have a mother and a father. “It seems like a modest request – a mom and a dad,” Regnerus said. “It used to happen pretty naturally. We didn’t have to think about it or legislate toward that end. That’s because marriage has long served as the legal means by which children are united to their biological mothers and fathers and thus poised for optimal development.”
Regnerus acknowledged one of the main critiques of his research; he admitted that his study compared “children who grew up in stably coupled married households versus kids who grew up in unstable households,” and that in reality he only found about a dozen out of 248 children raised by a parent who had a “same-sex romantic relationship” who lived with their mother and mother’s lesbian partner for at least 10 years. But he only made mention of this after declaring, “Those young adults who reported living with her mother and her same-sex partner were more apt to have experienced a host of maladies as youth and then as young adults, when compared with young-adult children of still-married mothers and fathers” and launching into a long list of frightening outcomes. He did not clarify that this statement included all of the kids who lived with a mother and her lesbian partner for any amount of time, not just the dozen who lived with their mother and her partner for at least 10 years.
During the question-and-answer portion, Republican Rep. Richard Lee Fale said in his District 47 (which covers Waialua, Haleiwa, Pupukea, Kahuku, Laie, Hauula, Waiahole, Sunset Beach, Punaluu, and Kaaawa), 79.3 percent of the kids live in poverty. He then asked Regnerus which type of relationship should he want to “promote and enhance” in order to lift the children of his community out of poverty. “The mother-father married relationship,” Regnerus replied. “Because they have the most at stake and they’re the least likely to leave a child, least likely to abuse a child.”
Illinois—The Ruth Institute’s Jennifer Roback Morse referenced Mark Regnerus’ study when she testified in February before the Illinois House Executive Committee in opposition to a bill to legalize same-sex marriage which has not, to date, passed.
Nebraska—During a state Senate Judiciary Committee hearing concerning Legislative Bill 380, introduced early this year to amend state adoption laws to allow two unmarried adults to adopt – effectively allowing same-sex couples to adopt children – the head of a social conservative group in Nebraska cited Regnerus’ study in opposition to the bill. Dave Bydalek, policy director of the Nebraska Family Alliance (at the time of the hearing, Bydalek was executive director of Family First, which has since merged with the Nebraska Family Council), said Regnerus’ study showed that being raised in families where a parent had same-sex relationship was associated with negative outcomes for kids. In response, Democratic state Sen. Brad Ashford, chairman of the Judiciary Committee, said Regnerus’ study was not relevant to the debate. The bill has not moved forward since that hearing.
Congress—Tony Perkins, president of the influential religious right group the Family Research Council, who is reportedly considering a run for Congress in 2014, cited Mark Regnerus’ paper on the New Family Structures Study to lobby against the bipartisan “Every Child Deserves a Family Act,” which would prohibit organizations that receive federal funding from discriminating against potential foster and adoptive parents based on the “sexual orientation, gender identity, or marital status” of the prospective adoptive parent or the child involved. Perkins said Regnerus’ study revealed “the serious risks to being raised in a homosexual home -- not the least of which are poverty, depression, and abuse.” The adoption bill is still pending in Congress.
Colorado—Mark Regnerus’ paper on the New Family Structures Study was cited in opposition to a state bill to authorize any two unmarried adults – regardless of gender – to enter into a civil union, thereby giving same-sex couples rights similar to married couples. State Sen. Pat Steadman’s “Colorado Civil Union Act” was signed into law in March 2013 after failed attempts two years in a row. During a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing in January, Cecelia O’Connor, who was representing herself and had testified against the civil unions bill in the past, distributed an article written by the Witherspoon Institute on Regnerus’ and Loren Marks’ papers, concluding that “children do best when reared by their married biological mother and father.”
Rewind to May 2012 – about a month before Regnerus’ study was published – Glenn Stanton, of Colorado Springs’ Focus on the Family, testified against the civil unions bill. According to a state legislative summary, Stanton said child well-being was “best achieved through parenting by the child’s mother and father, citing certain statistical evidence and literature.” Stanton did not name Regnerus’ study – as it had not yet been published – but he certainly knew about it and had consulted Regnerus on it a year earlier. Once it was published, Stanton promoted Regnerus’ paper.
Maryland—The Maryland Marriage Alliance, a group affiliated with the National Organization for Marriage, used Regnerus’ study in political advertisements during a state campaign in 2012 to push a ballot initiative to repeal a marriage equality law passed earlier that year. The campaign failed.
Minnesota—Two years in a row, same-sex-marriage foes in Minnesota – led by the National Organization for Marriage – used Regnerus’ study to argue against marriage equality. In 2012, NOM partner Minnesota for Marriage funded political advertising citing Regnerus’ study when it was pushing a state constitutional amendment to ban same-sex marriage. That amendment was voted down by Minnesotans later that year. This year the state legislature introduced a law to legalize same-sex marriage – which was signed into law on May 14. Lawmakers attempted to use Regnerus’ study to argue against the law. For example, during a news conference over the law in February, state Rep. Glenn Gruenhagen (R-Glencoe) referenced Regnerus’ study – and misrepresented it – to claim that same-sex marriage is bad for children because children fare better when they have a mom and a dad.
Rhode Island—Susan Yoshihara, senior vice president for research at the social conservative Catholic Family and Human Rights Institute, testified on March 21 against a – now adopted – marriage-equality bill before a Rhode Island Senate committee, saying Regnerus’ research had “shattered” any “scholarly basis” for claims that children do fine when raised by “adults engaged in homosexual lifestyles.” Her statement was ruled to be “false” by PolitiFact Rhode Island.
There are several pending lawsuits across the country involving the question of marriage equality. As these cases develop, whenever any citations to Regnerus’ study occur, we will attempt to update them here.
DeBoer v. Snyder—The plaintiffs in a Michigan district court case challenging the state’s ban on marriage equality are calling for Mark Regnerus to be barred from testifying because of the roundly rejected junk science he peddled in a 2012 report demonizing gay and lesbian parents. In their motion, the plaintiffs cite Regnerus’ “flawed methodology” in his biased research, and point out that hundreds of scholars as well as the American Sociological Association were quick to highlight the study’s glaring flaws and biases. Read their motion.
Jackson v. Abercrombie—Regnerus’ study influenced Hawaii Senior District Judge Alan C. Kay’s ruling upholding a Hawaii law banning same-sex marriage last summer, and ruling against same-sex couples wishing to marry. On Aug. 8, 2012, Kay cited Regnerus’ paper in an opinion that erroneously asserted the study found that “children raised by married biological parents fared better than children raised in same-sex households in a range of significant outcomes.” The case is not over, however. Plaintiffs appealed to the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals, and the appeals court granted plaintiffs’ request to extend deadlines while the Hawaii legislature debates a law to legalize same-sex marriage this fall.
Griego v. Oliver—During recent arguments before the New Mexico Supreme Court, which has agreed to clarify the state’s vague marriage law, which neither explicitly forbids nor allows same-sex marriage, an attorney with the Christian law group Alliance Defending Freedom cited Regnerus’ study to argue that children are healthiest when raised by a biological mother and father. Alliance Defending Freedom attorney James Campbell is representing a group of Republican state lawmakers who filed a brief in the lawsuit, challenging the authority of Doña Ana County to give same-sex couples marriage licenses. (This lawsuit is among several others dealing with same-sex marriage, which have been temporarily halted until the state Supreme Court makes its determination on the law.) Two of the state Supreme Court justices challenged the premise of Campbell’s children argument, arguing that saying married, biological parents are the ideal standard does not necessarily mean same-sex parents are no good and that not all marriages produce children. In response, Campbell said, “If you promote equally a home which doesn’t have a mother and father, then inherently, you’re no longer promoting the biological home as the ideal here in society.”
Golinski v. U.S. Office of Personnel Management—Regnerus’ study was cited in legal briefs in opposition to this lawsuit challenging the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA). Groups that used the study to defend the DOMA included. The American College of Pediatricians, a small conservative medical group, referenced the study in an amicus brief at the urging of Christian law group the Alliance Defending Freedom, which has been involved representing same-sex-marriage foes in state-based lawsuits involving marriage equality across the country. Additionally, the U.S. House of Representatives’ Bipartisan Legal Advisory Group (BLAG), which was an intervenor-defendant in the case, cited Regnerus’ study in a legal brief filed July 17, 2012, and described the study as one of the rational bases behind DOMA, the idea that children benefit from being raised by their biological mothers and fathers and that government should thus support that outcome. The Golinski case was one of many federal cases involving DOMA being fought by BLAG up until June 2013, when the U.S. Supreme Court struck down the section of DOMA that precluded the federal government from recognizing same-sex marriages in the case United States v. Windsor. The Supreme Court declined to review the Golinski case, thus upholding the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals ruling that DOMA was unconstitutional. In July 2013, the appeals court disposed of the case, ruling in favor of the plaintiffs; that same month, BLAG ceased defending DOMA in all federal lawsuits.
Hollingsworth v. Perry—In December 2012, the U.S. Supreme Court agreed to hear this case challenging the constitutionality of California’s “Proposition 8” measure banning same marriage, which passed in 2008. As a Supreme Court case, several amicus briefs were entered into the record that cited Regnerus’ study in defense of Proposition 8. Groups that filed these briefs included: the National Association of Evangelicals and other religious groups including the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, the Institute for Marriage and Public Policy, Helen Alvaré (her brief was paid for by the Witherspoon Institute, which funded the bulk of Regnerus’ study), and seven social science professors including Mark Regnerus himself. On June 26, 2013, the Supreme Court dismissed the case, saying the proponents of California’s gay-marriage ban did not have legal standing to appeal a federal court’s order striking down the ban. Thus, the lower court’s ruling held, effectively legalizing same-sex marriage in California.
United States v. Windsor—Before the U.S. Supreme Court agreed to hear the case in December 2012, BLAG had cited the Regnerus study and defended it against criticisms. As a Supreme Court case, several amicus briefs were entered into the record that cited Regnerus’ study in defense of DOMA. Groups that filed these briefs included: Manhattan Declaration, Liberty Counsel, Helen Alvaré (her brief was paid for by the Witherspoon Institute, which funded the bulk of Regnerus’ study), the National Association of Evangelicals and other religious groups including the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, the Beverly LaHaye Institute and the National Legal Foundation, and seven social science professors including Mark Regnerus himself. On June 26, 2013, the Supreme Court ruled that Section 3 of DOMA – which prohibited the federal government from recognizing same-sex marriage – was unconstitutional.
Canada —Earlier in the spring, a RE/MAX real-estate agent in Ontario, Canada, distributed anti-LGBT newsletters in his neighborhood citing Regnerus’ study to assert that “traditional family is best for the future of the kids,” according to Yahoo! Canada News. The article was said to have been taken from the Polish weekly newspaper Sieci.
Croatia—In a campaign to put a voter-referendum on the ballot to ban same-sex marriage in Croatia’s constitution, the “In the Name of the Family” initiative cited Regnerus’ study in defense of the proposed ban, according to an article in a Croatian newspaper, Tportal.hr. The article criticized the research and “In the Name of the Family’s” use of it. Croatians will vote on the proposed amendment on Dec. 1, 2013.
England and Wales—When the government of England and Wales was deliberating over legislation to legalize same-sex marriage this summer, an anti-marriage-equality group called Gay Marriage No Thanks took out an advertisement in The Times and created a website citing Regnerus’ researchnbsp;, according to PinkNews. Despite such efforts, this marriage equality legislation passed in July and is expected to go into effect during the spring of 2014.
France—During France’s debate over same-sex marriage – which was signed into law in May 2013 – Regnerus’ study was cited in debates, on blogs, and was also a frequent talking point for the Manif pour Tous (the French anti-marriage equality movement). For example, Maurice Berger, chief of child psychiatry at the Saint-Etienne University Hospital, referenced Regnerus’ study in a panel discussion, saying children fare the best when raised by married biological parents. Berger also brought up the study before a crowd of 15,000 people in Paris during a protest against same-sex marriage in May. According to a website launched by the organization Le Mariage pour tous, which campaigned for the marriage equality law, Regnerus was frequently referenced in opposition to the marriage equality law.
In a unique turn of events, activists based in the U.S. and England joined the front lines of the anti-marriage equality protest movement in France. The National Organization for Marriage was involved in the campaign to fight France’s proposed marriage equality law. Also involved was Robert Oscar Lopez, an English professor who claims he suffered harms in his childhood because he was raised by a lesbian and heralded Regnerus’ study early on. Lopez started the blog English Manif, which targeted French citizens and was dedicated to trashing same-sex marriage. The website referenced Regnerus’ study.
Poland—Regnerus’ study has been used to argue against – now stalled – efforts to establish civil unions for same-sex couples in Poland earlier this year. A series of YouTube videos under the translated heading “Homosexuality-FACTS” advocate against LGBT rights by denigrating homosexuality. One video features a psychologist talking about Regnerus’ study; another video cites Regnerus’ study and references information from the Family Research Council, which has frequently referenced Regnerus’ study in arguments against same-sex marriage.
Russia—The LGBT community in Russia has recently been under a legislative assault, and this attack has fostered a climate where LGBT individuals, especially advocates and youth, are experiencing increased levels of violence and harassment that goes unchecked by law enforcement. Legislation has passed that seems to prohibit even modest gestures of public support for equality. Legislation has also passed that prohibits adoption by gay individuals and foreigners from countries where marriage equality exists. Most recently, legislation allowing courts to take parental custody away from LGBT parents was introduced and withdrawn – but it was only removed so that the bill’s sponsor could tweak the language. These bills have been bolstered, in part, by Mark Regnerus’ New Family Structures Study. According to a Right Wing Watch investigation, Regnerus’ study influenced the authors of Russia’s ban on “homosexual propaganda,” its ban on the adoption of Russian children by gay couples and individuals living in countries that allow marriage equality, and the bill that would have allowed the state to remove children from an LGBT parent or one assumed to be LGBT. This last bill, authored by Russian lawmaker Alexei Zhuravlyov, quoted extensively from Regnerus’ study. During a Russian State Duma committee hearing in June on the proposed same-sex-adoption ban, committee Chair Yelena Mizulina cited Regnerus’ research in her push for the ban, misrepresenting his research as a study of “3,000 people who had been raised in same-sex families,” according to Right Wing Watch. Regnerus’ research was also invoked the same day in Moscow at a roundtable attended by the National Organization for Marriage’s Brian Brown and several far-right French activists.