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Mark Regnerus came under attack for publishing a study about children growing up in households headed by parents with same-sex history.
BY SUE ELLEN BROWDER
Allegations of scientific misconduct against faculty member Mark Regnerus have been found to have no merit, University of Texas at Austin officials announced Aug. 30.
The allegations were filed in a written complaint by an irate blogger, Scott Rose (a pseudonym for Scott Rosensweig), a homosexual-activist blogger who writes for a website called TheNewCivilRightsMovement.com, after Regnerus published research showing that young-adult children of parents who’ve had same-sex relationships suffer more emotional and social problems than those reared by a mom and a dad.
Among the findings, young adults from homes in which either parent had a same-sex relationship were more likely to be unemployed, to be on public assistance, to have been arrested, to smoke marijuana and to have thought about suicide during the previous year.
Published in the June issue of Social Science Research, Regnerus’ study drew sensational and often outraged criticism from dozens of media outlets, including The New Yorker, the Huffington Post and The New Republic.
The “New Family Structures Study” challenged the politically correct “no differences” thesis that has been used repeatedly and effectively to sway state and federal judges to redefine marriage in the U.S. as simply a contract between two consenting adults and not as the only institution that binds a child to his or her mother and father.
“There is insufficient evidence to warrant an investigation,” the university announced in a press release on Aug. 30.
In an Aug. 24 memorandum, University of Texas research integrity officer Robert Peterson stated that “Professor Regnerus did not commit scientific misconduct when designing, executing and reporting the research published in the Social Science Research article.”
“In brief, Mr. Rose believed that the Regnerus research was seriously flawed and inferred that there must be scientific misconduct,” Peterson stated. “However, there is no evidence to support that inference.”
As part of the inquiry, Peterson interviewed both the accuser and the accused and sequestered Regnerus’ research and correspondence, which included four laptops, two desktop computers and 42,000 of his emails.
In addition, to ensure that the inquiry was conducted appropriately and fairly, the university hired Alan Price as an outside, independent consultant. Price served for 17 years in the U.S. Department of Health and Human Service’s Office of Research Integrity. There, he and a staff of senior scientists saw, handled and resolved more than 3,000 charges of scientific misconduct, leading Price to state that no one in the U.S., or for that matter, in the world, has more experience in this area than he does.
“Regnerus shattered the myth that mothers and fathers are interchangeable and that homosexual couples can generally do as good a job raising kids as a mother and father,” said attorney Charles LiMandri, president and chief counsel of the Freedom of Conscience Defense Fund. “The legal significance of this fact is that it proves there is a rational basis for laws, such as Prop. 8 in California, which limit marriage to a man and a woman.”
LiMandri observed that homosexual activists “are determined to pull out all the stops in seeking to discredit the study and anyone associated with it.”
The very month the study was published, allegations of scientific misconduct against Regnerus were filed with the University of Texas.
In his complaint, Rose charged “that Regnerus accepted money from political persons and groups to further their political goals, and in preparing a study for them, rushed it through production for their use in the 2012 elections.”
In a letter to University of Texas at Austin’s president, William Powers Jr., Rose made scientific-conspiracy accusations not only against Regnerus but also against the Witherspoon Institute (which funded the study), the National Organization for Marriage, Marriage Law Foundation’s director, William Duncan, Princeton University professor Robert George, the Family Research Council, the editor of Social Science Research, “sociologists from Brigham Young University” and the bishops of the Catholic Church.
The university has a stringent rule in its operating procedures that says any written complaint regarding scientific misconduct against any of its professors — lodged by anyone — must be responded to with an inquiry. The inquiry is a preliminary examination of the complaint to see if it is serious enough to warrant a formal investigation.
This preliminary inquiry into Rose’s claims has now been completed, and the university has concluded the charges against Regnerus have no merit.
In response to the closing of the inquiry, Regnerus said, “I’m pleased with the university’s decision. I think it’s just, wise and the product of a careful, thorough process.”
And the matter is closed, as far as the University of Texas is concerned.
Still, Regnerus observed, “I suspect critics will not rest for long. Writing in this area seems particularly to bring out hostility and ill will and to wear the code of civility thin. Amid it all, I am simply trying to discern and describe social reality in American families and households as best I can.”
Register correspondent Sue Ellen Browder writes from Ukiah, California.