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Zinnia Jones

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Gay parenting: After the Regnerus debacle, where are the apologies?

Thursday, August 2, 2012
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Now that an internal audit at Social Science Research has confirmed that the Mark Regnerus “gay parenting” study was indeed so badly flawed it never should have survived peer review, it’s safe to say that we can move past examining the specifics of how it went wrong, and start looking at the deeper question of why so many in the media and the right wing readily accepted its conclusions with little critical scrutiny while dismissing the valid concerns raised by others.

Given that their hailing of the study as a revelation about the supposed inferiority of same-sex parents was actually based on a paper that should have been immediately disqualified from publication, are they prepared to correct the record?

Mark Regnerus

What many of them described as a paper about “gay parenting” covered barely a handful of respondents who had lived with same-sex couples as parents for an appreciable fraction of their childhood, far too few to be representative of the true proficiency of same-sex parents. This is not merely a matter of partisan political opinion – Regnerus himself acknowledged these shortcomings. Are these reporters and activists willing to admit they were wrong?

Where is the apology from Maggie Gallagher, who wrote that the Regnerus study is “the best gay-parenting study we have to date“ and shows that “the ideal for a child is a married mom and dad,” when the study’s “gay fathers” and “lesbian mothers” groups were actually packed with as many unstable families as possible?

Where is the apology from William Saletan of Slate, who decried legitimate criticism of the study’s faulty conclusions as part of a “liberal war on science”?

Where is the apology from Ed Whelan of the National Review, who described all other studies on same-sex parenting as “schlock social science“ compared to the Regnerus study, and claimed that the new study discredits “the junk social science that so many proponents of same-sex marriage propagate,” even as he admitted that he doesn’t “regard Regnerus’s study as authoritatively and definitively settling much of anything”?

Where is the apology from Mona Charen, who claimed the study showed that “same-sex households provide children with the least stability”, when the study actually included hardly any actual households with same-sex parents?

Where is the apology from the Deseret News, which also erroneously claimed that the study’s results reflect “children growing up in lesbian households” – and then, ironically, called for “healthy skepticism for so-called consensus findings, especially with regard to hot-button social issues where the biases of researchers might influence design and interpretation”?

Where is the apology from Peter Sprigg of the Family Research Council, who uncritically repeated the study’s methodological sleight-of-hand of defining a child of “homosexual parents” as having at least one parent who ever had a same-sex relationship?

Where is the apology from Bryan Fischer of the American Family Association, who cited the study’s clearly insufficient data to demand that gay parents should be denied custody of their children?

Where is the apology from the American College of Pediatricians, a non-authoritative anti-gay group which cited the Regnerus study in an amicus brief in a federal case against the Defense of Marriage Act and again falsely claimed that it was about “children raised by same-sex couples”?

Where is the apology from political strategist Frank Schubert, who claimed that the study’s results warrant banning same-sex marriage?

Where is the apology from Christian Smith, who glossed over the study’s flaws and instead dismissed criticism of its shortcomings as “an academic auto-da-fé” against Regnerus?

Where is the apology from the 18 social scientists who claimed that “much of the public criticism Regnerus has received is unwarranted” and misleadingly described it as a “study on same-sex parenting”? (And if you’re impressed by that number, note that 200 researchers signed a letter which raised concerns about “the academic integrity of the peer review process for this paper as well as its intellectual merit”.)

We can keep going all day. I realize not everyone has an education in social science – I certainly don’t. But the mistakes of the Regnerus study are easily understandable by the layperson, and those in the media whose job it is to report on this have an obligation to do so accurately in the course of informing the public. Here, many of them have failed, and because of their lack of diligence, they’ve unjustly impugned parents like me and my partner in the minds of millions. They are responsible for that. Does this not warrant an apology? Can they admit that they were wrong, that these criticisms of the study’s structure and conclusions were indeed valid, and that they failed to recognize this? Or do they just not do this anymore?

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