In a federal court trial that begins this week in Detroit, University of Texas researcher Mark Regnerus -- the ideologically compromised author of an infamous and widely-discredited "study" that falsely claims children of same-sex couples do worse than those of opposite-sex couples -- is scheduled to testify as an expert witness for the state of Michigan as it defends its marriage discrimination amendment.
The New York Times reported last weekend that this trial is the first time in years that the long-debunked "children do better with a mother and a father" claim will be openly debated in court:
Scholars testifying in defense of Michigan's constitutional ban on same-sex marriage aim to sow doubt about the wisdom of change. They brandish a few sharply disputed recent studies -- the fruits of a concerted and expensive effort by conservatives to sponsor research by sympathetic scholars -- to suggest that children of same-sex couples do not fare as well as those raised by married heterosexuals.
That view will be challenged in court by longtime scholars in the field, backed by major professional organizations, who call those studies fatally flawed. These scholars will describe a near consensus that, other factors like income and stability being equal, children of same-sex couples do just as well as those of heterosexual couples.
"The overwhelming evidence so far is that there's not much difference between children raised by heterosexual or same-sex parents," Andrew J. Cherlin, a prominent sociologist of family issues at Johns Hopkins University who is not involved in the case, said in an interview.
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.
More details, after the jump.
The Times also notes that Regnerus and several other researchers participated in a series of meetings in 2010 with the virulently anti-gay Heritage Foundation. It was at those meetings that the seeds for Regnerus's astroturfed "study" were planted.
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.
The trial involves a challenge to Michigan's constitutional restriction of marriage to a unipon between a man and a woman, brought by a lesbian couple who want to marry and legally adopt each other's children.
This time, four social science researchers, all of whom attended at least one of the Heritage Foundation meetings and went on to publish new reports, are scheduled to testify in favor of Michigan's ban.
The most prominent is Dr. Regnerus. His study, published in 2012, was condemned by leading social scientists as misleading and irrelevant, but some conservatives call it the best of its kind and continue to cite it in speeches and court cases.
The article further points out that the principal funders for the study were also represented at the meetings:
Among those at the Heritage meetings was Luis E. Tellez, president of the Witherspoon Institute, a religious-conservative research center in Princeton, N.J. His organization seized the baton, signing up Dr. Regnerus, who was known as a skilled quantitative researcher, mainly on adolescent sexuality and religion, and as a Roman Catholic and opponent of same-sex marriage.
The institute gave Dr. Regnerus $695,000; the Bradley Foundation, a grant-making organization that supports conservative causes, gave him $90,000, according to his résumé.
Recently-obtained court documents show that, just as I suspected, Maggie Gallagher -- the country's most outspoken proponent of marriage discrimination -- may have been present at the Heritage meetings as well.
The idea that either Regnerus or his "study," with its blatant ideological corruption, could be seriously cited as credible evidence against marriage equality or same-sex parenting is laughable. Yet it (and he) continues cropping up in Supreme Court briefs, legislative hearings, and anti-gay laws in the United States, France, Russia, and Croatia.
As Bilerico readers may be aware, I am currently suing the University of Central Florida, with the help of the Human Rights Campaign, for access to public records relating to Regnerus's "study." UCF houses the journal where the study was published.
The university has continued to stonewall and is currently appealing the trial court's order to turn over the records I requested, but my attorneys are optimistic that we may have a resolution -- and the documents -- in the next couple of months.