Bishops Cite Flawed ‘Gay Parenting’ Study in Prop. 8 Brief

In October, I suggested that sociologist Mark Regnerus was ducking responsibility for the way his controversial right-wing-funded study about family structures was being mischaracterized and used politically by anti-marriage equality advocates. Thanks to the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, he has another chance.

The American Independent noticed that the bishops’ January 29 amicus brief on the Prop. 8 case cites Regnerus to support this statement: “A mother and father each bring something unique and irreplaceable to child-rearing that the other cannot.” The footnote in the brief (page 8) contains exactly the kind of distortion that anti-marriage-equality advocates have been making since the study came out. It characterizes the Regnerus study as “finding that children raised by married biological parents fared better in a range of significant outcomes than children raised in same-sex households.”

“Same-sex households” sounds like children being raised by same-sex couples, right? But that’s not what the Regnerus study studied. A website set up by the Witherspoon Institute, which funded the study, says “although it would have been helpful” to do that, it wasn’t “feasible.” What Regnerus did study was “adult children of parents who have, or have had, same-sex relationships.” And he compared those—including children of divorced or single parents—with children raised by a married mom and dad.

Regnerus has said, “The study itself was neither intended to undermine nor to affirm any legal rights about same-sex marriage,” but he declined an invitation by a Christianity Today interviewer to ask others to stop distorting the study’s findings to “prove” that parenting by same-sex couples is damaging to children. It’s never too late.

Peter Montgomery, a Washington, DC-based writer, is an associate editor for Religion Dispatches and a Senior Fellow at People For the American Way. His work focuses on religion, politics, and LGBT issues. Follow him on twitter @petemont.