AUSTIN, Texas — A University of Texas associate professor of sociology is defending a study he led that made several claims of negative outcomes for children raised by gay and lesbian parents.
The study, due to be published in the July issue of Social Science Research magazine, has come under intense fire from LGBT advocacy groups, who have labeled it flawed and biased.
In an interview Monday with the University’s student newspaper, The Daily Texan, professor Mark Regnerus said his study hoped to answer the question, “Is there no difference between growing up with a gay parent as opposed to other forms of family structures?”
“I stand by everything I did, said and wrote,” Regnerus told the paper. “I don’t have a political axe to grind. I know the funders are conservative. I don’t know what they make of this. I will always follow where the data leads.”
Critics have charged that Regnerus’ study is flawed because the study never bothered to answer the question of how children with LGBT parents fare in healthy, stable homes.
Critics also noted what it showed is that kids with at least one parent in a same-sex relationship didn’t fare so well in broken homes.
“An investigation is sorely needed to get to the bottom of how an inferior, politically loaded study found its way onto a mainstream campus at the expense of the institution’s academic integrity,” Wayne Besen, Executive Director of Truth Wins Out, a nonprofit organization that fights anti-LGBT extremism.
“What we are looking at with this study is the equivalent of an ugly push poll or a nasty robo call — with footnotes to give it a veneer of academic legitimacy,” Besen said.
The study was funded with a $695,000 grant from the Witherspoon Institute and a $90,000 grant from the arch-conservative Bradley Foundation.
Besen points out that “most ominously, Princeton professor Robert P. George is a key member of Witherspoon. George has been affiliated with the Family Research Council and is a founder of the notoriously anti-gay National Organization for Marriage.”
“The chances of a ‘think tank’ tied to George producing a study that shines a positive light on gay parents are about the same as palm trees sprouting in January outside my bedroom window in Burlington, Vt.,” he said.
Regnerus’ study compared adult children raised in family structures such as “intact bio families,” which include married heterosexual couples, with children raised by gay or lesbian parents.
Regnerus began the study in the fall of 2010 and used a nationally representative population-based sampling method, the same method used in the U.S. census, which differs from other studies that seek out individual people to survey.
The study compared children using 40 different categories, observing aspects of their adult life: income, voting status, current sexual orientation, depression level and current self-reported level of happiness.
“We found that there are differences between kids who grew up with a mom in a lesbian relationship and kids who grew up with mom and dad who were married and who are still married today,” Regnerus said. “It’s challenging because family structure is not a static thing, so deciding who is going to be analyzed and what the categories are calls for a lot of subjective decisions.”
“Identifying a parent who has had a same-sex relationship is not the same as identifying a parent who is gay, lesbian or bisexual in a functional relationship,” critiqued researcher Jim Burroway, editor of the Box Turtle Bulletin.
The Daily Texan also interviewed Travis Knoll, a Latin American studies senior who was adopted when he was six years-old by a single gay man after spending much of his childhood in foster care.
Knoll told the paper that the sacrifices made by his adoptive father were an invaluable parts of his upbringing.
“My father’s orientation did indeed influence how I was raised,” he said. “It influenced my character positively. I felt I was being raised in a community. I wouldn’t trade my life for anything.”