Who Was Involved
The Key Players
Promoted the Study
Opposed the Study
An associate professor of sociology at the University of Texas at Austin and a dedicated Catholic, Regnerus was the principal investigator of the “New Family Structures Study,” a research project conceived and mostly funded by the conservative Witherspoon Institute. Following the firestorm his original paper unleashed last summer, the UT professor defended his study’s methodology, which many scholars and journalists on all sides of the political aisle criticized for effectively comparing apples to oranges. In media interviews, Regnerus has said his paper was about sociology, not ideology and that his funders played no role in the study outside giving him hundreds of thousands of dollars to produce it. This latter point turned out to be false, as we are now aware that a Witherspoon Institute fellow who conceptualized the project was heavily involved. As for ideology, this year Regnerus signed on to amicus briefs in two Supreme Court cases, using his own study to urge the high court to rule against legalizing same-sex marriage in California and against granting federal benefits to legally married same-sex couples. Regnerus has gone on to advocate against same-sex marriage in his own writings and to speak at conferences hosted by marriage equality foes. This year he joined the nascent Austin Institute for the Study of Family and Culture, a new academic initiative “dedicated to research on the family, marriage, and contemporary relationships.”
Co-founder and president of the Princeton, N.J.-based Witherspoon Institute, Tellez is also a founding board member of the National Organization for Marriage and an advisory board member of the Love and Fidelity Network, which is associated with NOM. Initially Tellez authorized about $1 million to fund the New Family Structures Study, but later that money was reduced to about $700,000. In approaching the Lynde and Harry Bradley Foundation in a fundraising letter in April 2011, Tellez explained that the intention of the study was to affirm the notion that same-sex parenting is bad for children as an argument against same-sex marriage. Tellez told Regnerus early on in the project that he wanted the study to be produced quickly in time to influence any Supreme Court decisions on same-sex marriage.
A conservative scholar and associate professor of sociology at the University of Virginia in Charlottesville, Va., where he runs the National Marriage Project, Wilcox played many roles in the conception, production, and publication of the New Family Structures Study. A fellow at the Witherspoon Institute from 2004 to 2012, he helped conceptualize the study in former his role as the director of Witherspoon’s Program on Family, Marriage, and Democracy. Wilcox, who had a prior working relationship with Regnerus, recruited the UT professor to lead the New Family Structures Study. During much of the time Wilcox was working for the Witherspoon Institute, he was also working as a paid consultant on the project (paid by the University of Texas, with Witherspoon’s funds). Internal emails show Wilcox had an authoritative role in the project, sitting in on meetings with Regnerus and even answering funding questions. It was Wilcox, in fact, who suggested to Regnerus, in an email, that he try to publish the article in Social Science Research, where Wilcox sits on the journal’s editorial board. Evidence from internal records suggests Wilcox also peer-reviewed Regnerus’ paper. This summer Wright told Inside Higher Ed that he asked Wilcox to review the paper and, despite his stated involvement as a paid consultant, he was “asked to proceed.”
A preeminent sociologist in the field, Amato was sought out to advise and later review and comment on Mark Regnerus’ initial findings of the “New Family Structures Study.” Amato is a professor and department chair of family sociology and demography at Pennsylvania State University. He is currently board president of the National Council on Family Relations, the leading professional association for family scholars. Amato’s prestige and lack of outward political views provided legitimacy to the study. This summer Amato stated publically that he peer-reviewed Regnerus’ paper, after previously consulting the study, explaining he had “no personal or financial interest in whether the paper was published.” Amato says he disagrees with how many people, including Regnerus, have used the paper to lobby against LGBT families, and, as chair of the American Sociological Association’s Sociology of the Family Section, Amato voted for a resolution asking the ASA to respond to the Regnerus study and how it was being misused. Still, Amato stands by his initial decision to green-light the study for publication.
Source: University of Central Florida
The editor of Social Science Research and a distinguished research professor of sociology at the University of Central Florida, Wright acquiesced to Regnerus’ request to have his paper on the New Family Structures Study peer-reviewed with speed. Wright reportedly offered potential reviewers just a few weeks to review as opposed to the more usual months-long deadline. Wright published Regnerus’ paper in the July 2012 issue of Social Science Research (which went live online on June 10, 2012) alongside another paper, written by Louisiana State University professor Loren Marks, which attempted to discredit previous studies finding positive results of same-sex parenting. Following an outpour of backlash from the sociology and LGBT community, Wright commissioned an internal audit of the publishing and peer-review process to determine any wrongdoing. He told The American Independent in March 2013 that he resented having social science research being drawn into debates over marriage and adoption rights for same sex couples. He is currently fighting a lawsuit filed by journalist John Becker to obtain public records related to the publication of Regnerus’ paper from the University of Central Florida, where Social Science Research is housed.
An associate professor at Louisiana State University in the Division of Family, Child, and Consumer Sciences within the School of Human Ecology, Marks wrote an article published alongside Mark Regnerus’ in the same July 2012 issue of Social Science Research. Marks’ article argued against the American Psychological Association’s position that same-sex parenting is not harmful for children and criticized the studies used to make this conclusion, arguing they were based on small, convenience sample methods. Social Science Research editorial board member Darren Sherkat, who conducted an internal audit of the publication of Marks’ and Regnerus’ studies, characterized Marks’ paper as an “argumentative review paper,” in which “no original data were collected or analyzed, nor was a systematic meta-analysis conducted.” Sherkat said it was “inappropriate” for Social Science Research to publish Marks’ article because it was not original quantitative research.Steven Nock
A former sociology professor at the University of Virginia, Nock was a recognized expert on marriage and its societal role. Nock, who died in 2008, was a critic of small, nonrandom studies on same-sex parenting; he is on record professing for the need for a large, random, population-based study to find out the outcomes of children raised by gay and lesbian parents. Nock was also the director of the University of Virginia’s Marriage Matters project, which is now headed by Bradford Wilcox, who actually suggested that Regnerus pitch his study to Social Science Research because the journal’s editor, James Wright, had been friends with Nock.
The president of the National Organization for Marriage, Brown has spent the last few years fighting marriage rights for same-sex couples in America. One of Brown’s standard arguments against same-sex marriage is that children should only have a mother and a father. When Regnerus’ study came out, Brown and his organization immediately seized on the findings as proof that same-sex marriage is bad for kids. With more states legalizing marriage equality laws, Brown has been exporting his anti-gay-marriage campaigning abroad. He’s testified before a Russian State Duma committee in favor of new laws banning “non-traditional relationships propaganda” (i.e., talking about homosexuality) and the adoption of Russian-born children to gay couples.
A longtime opponent of same-sex marriage, Gallagher has influenced national public policy on marriage – having taken federal money to promote President George W. Bush’s “Healthy Marriage Initiative” in 2002 and 2003 – but she has been most influential pushing state-based anti-gay-marriage initiatives as an officer of the National Organization for Marriage, which she co-founded in 2007. Gallagher stepped down as president of NOM in 2010 and currently has a less visible position on the group’s executive committee. She is the president of the Institute for Marriage and Public Policy, a nonprofit based in Manassas, Va., that lobbies on marriage law. And in 2011, Gallagher founded the Culture War Victory Fund, which – though now-defunct – served as a sounding board praising Regnerus’ study, beginning the day it was published.
A McCormick Professor of Jurisprudence at Princeton University and chair of the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom, the influential George has founded and funded myriad social conservative institutions that have become political heavyweights in the fight against marriage equality. Though the Witherspoon Institute and Mark Regnerus have denied that George was directly involved in any aspect of the New Family Structures Study, George’s seat on the board of directors on the Lynde and Harry Bradley Foundation indicates he was likely part of the decision by the foundation to help fund it. The Bradley Foundation’s board of directors, which directs the foundation’s funds, gave at least $90,000 to the Regnerus study in 2011. Additionally, George’s name was mentioned in a fundraising letter to the Bradley Foundation, penned by Witherspoon President Luis Tellez: “We are very grateful for The Bradley Foundation’s consideration of this request. Mark Regnerus, Robby George, Brad Wilcox, and I would be happy to work with the Bradley Foundation to identify other funding partners,” Tellez wrote. George helped draft the original Federal Marriage Amendment defining marriage as a union between a man and a woman that was first introduced to Congress in 2002 but has never passed. George’s groups, which together launched a sort of marketing campaign for Regnerus’ study soon after it was published, include:
An assistant professor of English at California State University-Northridge, Lopez came, seemingly out of nowhere, to defend Regnerus’ New Family Structures Study. Lopez offered his own experience being raised by a lesbian mother and her girlfriend (whom he says didn’t live with them during his childhood but spent most weekends at his mom’s trailer) as an affirmation of Regnerus’ results. Lopez’ appearance onto the scene started after he left a comment on Regnerus’ website, and Regnerus initiated an email correspondence. In July 2012, the Witherspoon Institute published Lopez’s account of his childhood, in which Lopez blamed his social awkwardness, self-described strangeness, and bisexuality on his mother’s lesbianism. Soon after thrusting himself into the debate over the validity of Regnerus’ study, Lopez became a regular speaker at events hosted by the National Organization for Marriage and a regular blogger at NOM’s website. He started the blog English Manif, a host to anti-LGBT rhetoric, in a failed attempt to fight legalization of same-sex marriage in France. Lopez has compared same-sex parenting and adoption to child abuse and slavery and same-sex adoption to “cultural genocide.”
At the outset of his project, Mark Regnerus approached this well-respected demographer of the LGBT population to consult on his study. But upon hearing the frame of Regnerus’ research approach. Gates gave his two cents and then declined to participate further. Upon the publication of the study, Gates, a distinguished scholar at the University of California, Los Angeles School of Law’s Williams Institute, organized an open letter signed by more than 200 researchers, excoriating Regnerus’ paper and asking that Social Science Research to invite scholars with an expertise in LGBT family research to submit a detailed critique of the paper in the subsequent issue of Social Science Research. The journal granted this request for the fall issue.
Né Scott Rosensweig, Rose is a blogger and gay-rights activist based in New York City, who instigated several complaints against Regnerus’ New Family Structures Study. Less than two weeks after Regnerus’ paper was published, Rose filed a “scientific misconduct complaint” with the University of Texas at Austin. Rose’s allegations were based largely on speculation, and the university, conducting an initial inquiry, determined no further investigation was warranted. Rose exposed several elements of the scandal at the New Civil Rights Movement blog and Lez Get Real blogs, including that Bradford Wilcox had been a paid consultant on Regnerus’ study while he worked at the Witherspoon Institute. At the behest of Rose’s complaints, Elsevier B.V., which publishes Social Science Research, referred the case to the Committee on Publication Ethics (COPE), a UK-based network of academic journal editors, to investigate the publication process of Regnerus’ paper in Social Science Research, which is a COPE member.
An associate professor of sociology at Stanford University, Rosenfeld is the author of the first large-sample, nationally representative study that, using U.S. Census data, tested the educational outcomes of children raised by same-sex couples and found that “children of same-sex couples are as likely to make normal progress through school as the children of most other family structures.” Mark Regnerus initially approached Rosenfeld to consult on his project, but Rosenfeld declined, saying he was concerned with “the unusual way the project [was] funded.” Later, Social Science Research Editor James Wright approached Rosenfeld about peer-reviewing Regnerus’ research manuscript. Rosenfeld says Wright only gave him an unusually short window (about two weeks) in which to review the paper, but Rosenfeld says he ultimately declined because he was not permitted to see the data on which Regnerus’ findings were based. Rosenfeld has praised the value in the data Regnerus’ team gathered, but he has criticized how the data were interpreted. Rosenfeld has reanalyzed the New Family Structures Study data and submitted his findings to a peer-review journal. Rosenfeld says his paper comes to a very different conclusion from Regnerus’; he hopes it will be published in 2014.
An associate professor of sociology at Southern Illinois University in Carbondale and a member of Social Science Research’s editorial board, Sherkat was an early critic of Regnerus’ paper on the New Family Structures Study. In July 2012, Social Science Research Editor James D. Wright assigned Sherkat to conduct an internal audit over the peer-review and publishing process regarding Regnerus’ and Loren Marks’ papers. In his audit, Sherkat concluded that the peer reviewers overlooked serious flaws in both papers and should never have suggested they be published without in-depth revisions. Sherkat wrote in his audit and told the press that he did know who peer-reviewed Regnerus’ study, but in a university lecture he gave last year, he claimed that two out of three of Regnerus’ peer reviewers were paid consultants on the New Family Structures Study. Public records also indicate Sherkat knew who the reviewers were. His motives for suggesting otherwise to the general public are unclear.
Based in Princeton, N.J., the Witherspoon Institute has been pushing a social-conservative agenda – including opposing marriage rights for same-sex couples – since it was co-founded in 2003 by Robert P. George and Luis E. Tellez. It was founded as an organization that would push a social conservative agenda using scholarship “rather than invective,” as Tellez articulated in a 2008 Princeton Alumni Weekly article. Over the years, the Witherspoon Institute, which includes mostly Catholic board members, has funded or published scholarly work alleging harms to society if same-sex couples are allowed to legally marry. Witherspoon has alluded to the interest in a study like the New Family Structures Study several years earlier in 2008, when it published a paper, commonly known as the “Princeton Principles,” which predicted that sociological research would likely show that gay-parenting is harmful for children. In late 2010, the Witherspoon Institute gave Regnerus $55,000 to begin exploring the New Family Structures Study; in the spring of 2011, Witherspoon gave him another $640,000 to conduct the study.
Based in Milwaukee, Wis., this grant-making institution, named for entrepreneurial brothers Lynde and Harry Bradley, has, since the 1980s, been donating heavily to social conservative policy causes. The foundation donated to the National Organization for Marriage in 2008 when it was fighting to pass Proposition 8 in California and gave a $90,000 grant to Regnerus to help fund his New Family Structures Study, at the request of the Witherspoon Institute. The grant was approved in November 2011. In a fundraising email to the Bradley Foundation sent in April 2011, Tellez indicated that the Bradley Foundation had granted money to Witherspoon in 2010 for a project on marriage and sexual ethics, which had been used for the New Family Structures Study. In this letter, Tellez explained that the study would likely vindicate the theory that same-sex marriage is a bad idea because it hurts children.
A very well-respected public university in Austin, Texas, the University of Texas’ Population Research Center housed the New Family Structures Study financing the study through grants from the Witherspoon Institute and the Lynde and Harry Bradley Foundation. The University of Texas responded to an early scientific misconduct compliant against Mark Regnerus, as is university protocol, but dropped it in August 2012, declaring no wrongdoing had been found and no further investigation was warranted. The university fought requests for records over the study but following an appeal to the Texas Attorney General’s office eventually released some documents to the journalists who had made the requests.
Founded in 2007 to push a voter referendum banning same-sex marriage in California, the National Organization for Marriage has remained the leading group fighting same-sex marriage, and now overseas. NOM has consistently cited Regnerus’ study as evidence that gay marriage is bad for children; just in the first week the study was released, the group devoted five blog posts to the study. NOM President Brian Brown is on the record speaking to Russian parliament about the supposed dangers of same-sex marriage on children and religious rights shortly before Russian President Vladimir Putin signed laws seizing parental rights of gay people and making it illegal to talk to children about homosexuality. And there is some evidence that NOM had been actively working toward finding scholars to denounce gay marriage using credible research. In court documents unsealed by a Maine court last year, NOM’s confidential strategy documents showed NOM had been working with scholars to sign on to amicus briefs condemning same-sex marriage in same-sex marriage litigation. The documents also revealed NOM’s “expert witness project,” whose goal was to “identify and nurture a worldwide community of highly credentialed intellectuals and professional scholars, physicians, social workers, and writers to credential our concerns and to interrupt the silencing that takes place in the academy around gay marriage and related family issues.”
Now an affiliated organization of the National Organization for Marriage (registered as a 501c3 to NOM’s 501c4), the Ruth Institute was initially founded in 2008 by Jennifer Roback Morse. The organization, based in San Diego, Calif., and whose moniker is “making marriage cool,” targets anti-gay marriage messaging at young people. The Ruth Institute has frequently used Regnerus’ study in its messaging, and Regnerus was a featured speaker at the Ruth Institute’s annual It Takes a Family conference this year.
Founded in 2007 by Cassandra DeBenedetto and based in Princeton, N.J., the Love and Fidelity Network’s primary mission is to train young college conservatives at on how to fight same-sex marriage. The group has ties to the National Organization for Marriage and includes former NOM co-founders Maggie Gallagher and Robert George and co-founding board members Luis Tellez on its advisory board, as well as Bradford Wilcox. NOM’s internal strategy documents unsealed by a Maine court last year revealed that NOM viewed the Love and Fidelity Network as a source to train Ivy League students to fight against legalizing same-sex marriage. Mark Regnerus spoke at a Love and Fidelity National Conference in 2009 and again in 2012.