Texas College: Anti-Gay Parenting Study Checks Out

by Jason St. Amand

National News Editor

Monday September 3, 2012

Officials from the University of Texas have stated this week that a faculty member did not commit scientific misconduct when researching and creating a controversial study about gay parenting.

According to a statement by the school, the college will no longer continue its formal investigation against Mark Regnerus, an associate professor of sociology.

"After consulting with a four-member advisory panel composed of senior university faculty members, the Office of the Vice President for Research concluded in a report on Aug. 24 that there is insufficient evidence to warrant an investigation," the statement reads.

The study, which is called "New Family Structures Study," made media headlines when it was published a few months ago. Regnerus' research claims children of gay couples are worse off than kids raised by straight couples, EDGE reported. Gay activists and supporters were outraged by the findings and even scholars from the college criticized the associate professor's work.

The study surveyed about 3,000 18-to-39 year olds. Most of the participants were raised by straight parents but 175 had mothers who once had a same-sex relationship and 73 had fathers who were also once with a member of the same sex. The results of the study claim that the children from these parents are more likely to end up on welfare, be unemployed, attend therapy as adults and exhibit other signs of adult dysfunction than those from heterosexual couples.

GLAAD, the Family Equality Council and the Human Rights Campaign issued a joint statement and called the study "flawed, misleading, and scientifically unsound." The organizations also noted that Renergus is known for his "his ultra-conservative ideology and the paper was funded by the Witherspoon Institute and the Bradley Foundation - two groups commonly known for their support of conservative causes. The Witherspoon Institute also has ties to the Family Research Council, the National Organization for Marriage, and ultra-conservative Catholic groups like Opus Dei." Rosenweig also noted the same thing and that the professor had taken "money from an anti-gay political organization for his study."

But University of Texas officials didn't look into the study until Scott Rosenweig, a freelance writer, sent a letter to the college and complained that Regnerus allegedly created "a study designed so as to be guaranteed to make gay people look bad, through means plainly fraudulent and defamatory."

Regnerus stood by his research and methods and insisted that he followed the standard guidelines for his study.

"A team consisting of leading family researchers was involved in developing the research protocol," Regnerus wrote in an email. "This academic team merged scholars across disciplines and ideological lines in a spirit of civility and reasoned inquiry, and the protocol developed by this team was subsequently approved by the University of Texas' Institutional Review Board."

"Normal procedures were followed for obtaining outside support, as many researchers do," he added.

The university's investigation was headed by Robert A. Peterson, who is a research integrity officer in the Office of the Vice President for Research. After discussing the issue with a four-member advisory panel of senior University of Texas faculty members, Peterson found no falsification of data, plagiarism or other serious ethical breaches consulting scientific misconduct. He said the debate of whether Regnerus' study has serious flaws should be left to scholars, future research and an expected release by Regnerus of the research's data.

Peterson added that, "ordinary errors, good faith differences in interpretations or judgments of data, scholarly or political disagreements, good faith personal or professional opinions, or private moral or ethical behavior or views are not misconduct."