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Author of flawed gay parenting study testifies in Mich. same-sex marriage trial

Monday, March 3, 2014
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DETROIT — The author of a controversial study of adult children often cited by opponents of same-sex marriage defended his work in court Monday but also said it’s too early for social scientists to make far-reaching conclusions about families headed by same-sex couples.

University of Texas sociologist Mark Regnerus testified for more than three hours as a witness for the state of Michigan, which is defending a ban on gay marriage. The constitutional amendment, approved by voters in 2004, is being challenged by two Detroit-area nurses in a rare trial.

Regnerus was the leader of a study that screened thousands of people, ages 18 to 39, and found roughly 250 who said they grew up in a house where a mom or dad eventually had a same-sex relationship.

He found they were more likely to have problems — welfare dependence, less education, marijuana use — than young adults from stable families led by heterosexuals. He later acknowledged that his study didn’t include children raised by same-sex couples in a stable relationship.

The results ignited a blast of criticism when they were published in an academic journal in 2012.

The study was financed by the New Jersey-based Witherspoon Institute, which says its mission is to help the public understand the “moral foundations” of democratic societies.

The American Psychological Association has said there’s no scientific basis for believing that gays and lesbians are unfit parents based on sexual orientation. But Regnerus said he believes it’s too early for sweeping statements.

And while Regnerus was testifying, the chair of the University of Texas Sociology Department issued a statement distancing itself from Regnerus’ study:

Like all faculty, Dr. Regnerus has the right to pursue his areas of research and express his point of view. However, Dr. Regnerus’ opinions are his own. They do not reflect the views of the Sociology Department of The University of Texas at Austin.

Nor do they reflect the views of the American Sociological Association, which takes the position that the conclusions he draws from his study of gay parenting are fundamentally flawed on conceptual and methodological grounds and that findings from Dr. Regnerus’ work have been cited inappropriately in efforts to diminish the civil rights and legitimacy of LBGTQ partners and their families.

We encourage society as a whole to evaluate his claims.

Regnerus will be cross-examined Tuesday.

The judge must determine whether there’s a rational public interest in restricting marriage to a man and a woman in Michigan. Experts testifying last week for nurses Jayne Rowse and April DeBoer said children simply need good parents, no matter their gender or sexual orientation.

Rowse and DeBoer of Hazel Park together are raising three adopted children with special needs. But they can’t marry in Michigan and, as a result, can’t jointly adopt each other’s kids.

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The state’s defense of the gay-marriage ban got off to a rocky start when Friedman barred a witness from testifying.

Sherif Girgis has written and talked about a historical defense of marriage between a man and a woman, going back to ancient philosophers such as Cicero and Plato. He’s pursuing a law degree at Yale University and a doctorate in philosophy in Princeton University.

The judge said Girgis is smart, articulate and bound to become an expert in his field.

“But not quite yet,” Friedman said.

Follow the case: DeBoer v. Snyder.

Associated Press contributed to this report.

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