By Leah Waldron
This Sunday, the “Washington Times” published a gay parenting study by Associate Professor Mark Regnerus, a conservative Christian-funded, Texas-based research scientist who specializes in marriage and sexuality. The study, which was published in SciVerse (a paywall, or pay-to-read journal), answered the basic title question: “How different are the adult children of parents who have same-sex relationships?” The answer, according to the study: they’re pretty screwed up.
According to the research abstract, Regnerus polled adults aged 18-39 who “were raised in different types of family arrangements.” Of the nearly 3,000 adults polled, only 175 reported having a mother who engaged in a same-sex relationship during their childhood, while 73 adults reported the same scenario with a father. It should be noted that only two of the 175 “lesbian-parent” adults, and none of the 73 “gay-parent” adults, were raised by a gay couple, or self-identified gay parent, from birth. In other words, the study was performed on 246 adults with parents who came out or experimented with same-sex relationships during their childhood.
Once that extremely important variable comes to light, the study’s findings make a lot more sense. Children raised in homes with interrupted family structures are, by many of Regnerus’ 40 standards, emotionally and financially affected by a broken home. Despite the lack of true, gay-parent-raised participants, Regnerus’ conclusion stated that lesbian-raised adults were “markedly different on numerous outcomes, including many that are obviously suboptimal (such as education, depression, employment status, or marijuana use)…the basic statistical comparisons between this group and those of others, especially biologically-intact, mother/father families, suggests that notable differences on many outcomes do in fact exist.”
Bring on the conservative press free-for-all. The first out of the gate was the newspaper that originally reported on the study, the “Washington Times.” The headline of Sunday’s article was titled “Study: Children fare better in traditional mom-dad families.” It may sound like an unbiased news source, and the website certainly looks like the “Washington Post” or “The New York Times,” but the “Washington Times” is quite the opposite. The website’s “About Us” section states that the newspaper is a “general interest daily newspaper” that is the “most-often-quoted” news source in America. However, the “news” source was founded in 1982 by several religious media conglomerates, including News World Communications, which was headed by Unification Church founder Sun Myung Moon.
Just one day after the story ran, the anti-gay organization NOM (National Organization for Marriage) jumped on the bandwagon with an info graphic titled “Two Moms Vs. Mom and Dad: A study released Sunday finds that adult children (ages 18-39) of lesbian mothers are more likely to report negative outcomes in several categories than adult children raised by married mother-father parents.” The info graphic breaks down the numbers to show that adults raised by lesbians are more likely to be on public assistance, depressed, survivors of incest and in a gay relationship, themselves, among other negative factors.
The culprit of this social science research travesty is not Mark Regnerus, although his ignorance of scientific approach is a travesty, of sorts. The culprit is also not SciVerse, the research journal that published the study (along with millions of other pay-per-view “studies” in a single year). Both Regnerus and SciVerse are guilty of misrepresenting themselves as members of the scientific community, but not necessarily of hate mongering.
As deplorable and deceitful as NOM is, the organization is only guilty of re-publishing the facts of the article that was written in the “Washington Times,” which I believe is the real culprit. NOM is a private organization, but the “Washington Times” is, by their own definition, one of the largest-reaching news sources in the country.
By naming itself a hybrid of two of the most respected news sources in America, and by failing to identify its religious stance, the “Washington Times” misled American readers into believing the study was both significant and scientifically sound. The people who read Sunday’s “breaking” news story were led to believe that 3,000 “gay parent” participants were emotionally and financially ruined adults, and that placing a child in a same-sex parent home—even one with two same-sex adults married for a decade—will damage the child into a poverty-stricken, pot-smoking, gay adult.