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Marriage ban on trial in Mich. this week, defendants to argue gay parents inferior

Sunday, February 23, 2014
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DETROIT — The trial that could overturn Michigan’s constitutional ban on same-sex marriage ban begins Tuesday in a federal court in Detroit.

Among those scheduled to be called as witnesses for the state are a number of anti-gay social science researchers, including University of Texas sociology professor Mark Regnerus, author of the discredited 2012 study on gay parenting, which critics say was based on “flawed methodology,” and was subsequently rejected by hundreds of scholars as well as the American Sociological Association.

On Sunday, The New York Times reported on the link between Regnerus and the and circumstances that led to the flawed report:

As they reel from a succession of defeats in courtrooms and legislatures, opponents of same-sex marriage have a new chance this week to play one of their most emotional and, they hope, potent cards: the claim that having parents of the same sex is bad for children.

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The last time these issues were debated in a federal court, in California nearly four years ago, social science opponents of same-sex marriage underwent withering challenges in pretrial depositions and did not even appear in court.

As he struck down Proposition 8, the California amendment limiting marriage to a man and a woman, Judge Vaughn R. Walker of Federal District Court in San Francisco said he had heard “no reliable evidence that allowing same-sex couples to marry will have any negative effects on society.”

For some conservatives, that decision amounted to a call to arms.

In meetings hosted by the Heritage Foundation in Washington in late 2010, opponents of same-sex marriage discussed the urgent need to generate new studies on family structures and children, according to recent pretrial depositions of two witnesses in the Michigan trial and other participants. One result was the marshaling of $785,000 for a large-scale study by Mark Regnerus, a meeting participant and a sociologist at the University of Texas who will testify in Michigan.

Regnerus’ report continues to be cited cited by anti-gay rights activists in marriage equality and LGBT adoption debates both in the United States and internationally.

The Michigan challenge was brought by April DeBoer and Jayne Rowse, who were seeking to jointly adopt their children, and originally challenged the state’s ban on adoption by same-sex couples. In August 2012, U.S. District Judge Bernard A. Friedman invited the couple to amend their suit to challenge the state’s ban on same-sex marriage, which he termed “the underlying issue.”

Earlier this month, the plaintiffs filed a brief seeking to ban Regnerus from testifying as an expert witness on behalf of the state, and said his “flawed methodology and generic conclusions, untethered to any of the specific factual issues in this case, render his opinion unreliable and irrelevant.”

The case can be followed here: DeBoer v. Snyder

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