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University of Texas Opens Inquiry of Regnerus Study; NCRM Reporting Plays Central Role

by Scott Rose on July 1, 2012


The New Civil Rights Movement writer Scott Rose’s recent series of investigative reporting articles  about the Mark Regnerus study of “gay findings” at University of Texas has played a central role in the university’s decision to conduct a scientific misconduct inquiry 

Between January, 2011 and June of 2012, Mark Regnerus of the University of Texas, Austin, plotted, carried out and then had published a “study” of dubious scholarly merit, alleged to show, but not actually showing, that homosexual parents are dangerous to children.
Funding for the Regnerus study was arranged through the National Organization For Marriage‘s Robert P.George along with George’s anti-gay-rights colleagues at The Witherspoon Institute and the Bradley Foundation. George is an author of the anti-gay NOM pledge signed by Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney.
NCRM Writer Invited to be Interviewed
This reporter mailed a Scientific Misconduct complaint about Regnerus to University of Texas President William Powers, Jr. on June 21.  On June 25, UTA Research Integrity Officer Dr. Robert Peterson told me in an e-mail that he will be conducting an inquiry as per university policy.
Dr. Peterson invited this reporter to Austin to be interviewed by the Inquiry Panel, or alternately to participate in a teleconference with the panel. As of this writing, this reporter’s interview with the panel is scheduled to take place between July 6 and July 11.  Nonetheless, at this time it is not clear that Dr. Peterson has committed to a full and thorough investigation.

More Evidence Should be Considered by University of Texas

 There now is far more evidence for the Inquiry Panel to consider.  This reporter provides the following additional evidence: 

A thorough “Scientific Misconduct” investigation of Regnerus would include examinations of whether 1) Regnerus’s study, taken as is, lacks scientific integrity; and whether 2) Regnerus has engaged in any improper relationships with his funders and/or others in connection with the study.
Even on some basic points, informational clarity is lacking.  For example, Regnerus writes in his study: “The New Family Structures Study (NFSS) was supported in part by grants from the Witherspoon Institute and the Bradley Foundation.” That sentence is unambiguously worded to mean that the study got funding from sources in addition to the Witherspoon Institute and the Bradley Foundation. Yet, according to David Ochsner, Director of Public Affairs at University of Texas, Austin, Regnerus is now alleging that Witherspoon and Bradley were his study’s sole funders.
However that may be, Dr. Peterson thus far, disappointingly, has declined my request that he obtain, and provide copies to this reporter, and other members of the public: 1) all written and/or typed communications; 2) all notes taken about telephone and all other communications, between; 3) Regnerus and his study funders, the Witherspoon Institute and the Bradley Foundation, and between Regnerus and anybody else, involving his study, between 3) the initial contact about such a study, between Regnerus and The Witherspoon Institute and/or anybody associated with Witherspoon, and the time that Witherspoon gave Regnerus a $35,000 “planning grant” through to 4) Witherspoon’s and Bradley’s approval of the study plan and resulting full funding of the study; and between aforementioned parties through to 5) the present day.


Additionally, I have requested Dr. Peterson to provide this reporter with copies of; and 6) a full accounting of study fund disbursements, including; 7) a verifiable record of how much Regnerus was paid in association with the study.
That documentation is necessary for the actualization of a full and true investigation. As UTA’s investigation protocol says; “The purpose of the investigation is to: explore in detail the allegations; examine the evidence in depth; and, determine specifically whether misconduct has been committed, by whom, and to what extent. The investigation also will determine whether there are additional instances of possible misconduct that would justify broadening the scope beyond the initial allegations.”
The UTA Investigation protocol goes on to say: “The Research Integrity Officer immediately will sequester any additional pertinent research records that were not sequestered previously. The sequestration should occur before or at the time the respondent is notified that an investigation has begun.”
Additional Allegations
The very name of the Regnerus’s project, “The New Family Structures Study,” is deceptive — and is an anti-gay bigot dog whistle — in ways characteristic of Regnerus’s funder NOM’s Robert George of the Witherspoon Institute and the Bradley Foundation.
Because of that, and for reasons elaborated below, this reporter insists that for its Scientific Misconduct inquiry of Regnerus, the University of Texas, Austin must examine in its investigation, and provide, copies of all written communications, and notes, such as of phone conversations, and all other documentation of the relationship between Mark Regnerus and The Witherspoon Institute from the time those two parties first considered a study about children of gay parents, to include the time that Witherspoon gave Regnerus a $35,000 “planning grant” and subsequent to when the plan had been formulated and Witherspoon approved Regnerus for his full study funding.

As happens, not a single one of the family structures considered in the Regnerus “New Family Structures Study” is actually “new.”
Regnerus says he surveyed people aged 18 – 39, and raised by:
a) married biological heterosexual parents – which is not a “new” family structure;
b) adoptive parents – again, not a “new” family structure;
c) divorced heterosexual parents – not a “new” family structure;
d) stepparents – not a “new” family structure.
Moreover, it is not “new” for gay adults to raise children. Major league baseball pitcher Joe Valentine, born in 1979, was raised from birth by two lesbian mothers. Very important to note in the context of the Regnerus matter: We only know about Joe Valentine’s lesbian mothers raising him because he went on to become famous. In the general population, there are many family groupings like that of Joe Valentine’s, suitable to the study that Regnerus alleges he intended to carry out, yet failed to carry out in reality with anything even remotely resembling scientific rigor. When baseball scout Warren Hughes signed Joe Valentine for the White Sox, by the way, he shook both lesbian parents’ hands after they agreed to an $80,000 bonus.
Dorothy Dandridge, born in 1922, and the first African-American actress nominated for an Academy Award, was raised by two lesbian mothers. Actress Jodie Foster, born in 1962, was raised by two lesbian mothers.
There numerous additional existing examples of people raised entirely by a gay or lesbian couple, for a number of decades through the 1990s, especially including non-famous persons raised by such couples.


Regnerus’ Survey Methodology is not Current
Regnerus’s claim that the probability-based web panel that he used is the best of all existing sampling methods for surveying gay fathers and lesbian mothers is false, totally and utterly false. For his sampling, Regnerus relied on the company Knowledge Networks to find his survey respondents through Knowledge Networks’ existing panelist system, which is based on a combination of random digit dialing sampling and address-based sampling.
The sampling method superior to that combined one, is commonly referred to as “address-based sampling,” unadulterated by any random digit dialing sampling application. By the way, as turns out, Knowledge Networks, Regnerus’s survey management company, will carry out pure address-based sampling, given enough resources in time and money.
The precise reason that old-fashioned random digit dialing (RDD) sampling is now inferior is especially relevant to this scientific misconduct complaint against Regnerus.
Here is the precise reason: RDD sampling does not include households without landline phones. In 2010, the Centers for Disease Control conducted a study of households that cannot be reached through RDD. The percentage of unreachable households is highest for the age demographics that Regnerus alleges he studied.
Forty percent of persons ages 18- 24; and 51 percent of persons ages 25 – 29; and 40 percent of those ages 30 – 34 cannot be reached through RDD.
That is the main reason why Regnerus’s survey data barely included a handful of young adult children of actual gay parents, and yet a hodge-podge of others whom Regnerus fraudulently shoehorned, for his convenience, and against sound scientific practice,  into the “lesbian mother” and “gay father” categories.


It is therefore of vital importance to fully investigate the allegations brought to the scientific misconduct complaint against Regnerus that the UTA Inquiry Panel thoroughly examine a) what Address-Based Sampling is; b) why it is superior to the sampling method Regnerus used, and; c) the fact that Regnerus is being disingenuous and duplicitous when he alleges that finding actual young adult offspring of gay parents would have been too difficult, and that he therefore had to settle for a sampling hodge-podge of people not actually raised by gay parents, to uncover and measure harms allegedly done to children by gay parents.
Here, then, is an explanation of how survey companies carry out address-based sampling (ABS):
ABS involves probability-based sampling of addresses from the U.S. Postal Service’s Delivery Sequence File. Randomly sampled addresses are invited to complete a researcher’s survey through a series of mailings and in some cases telephone refusal conversion calls when a telephone number can be matched to the sampled address. Invited households can respond by one of several means: by completing and mailing back a paper form in a postage-paid envelope; by calling a toll-free hotline; or by going to a designated web site and completing a screening form at the website. The key advantage of the ABS sample frame is that it allows sampling of almost all U.S. households.  


An estimated 97 percent of households are “covered” in sampling nomenclature. Regardless of household telephone status, they can be reached and contacted via the mail. Not only does ABS allow coverage of the growing proportion of cell-phone-only households, but it also improves sample representativeness (compared to random digit dial, or RDD, samples) for sexual minorities, minority racial and ethnic groups, lower educated, and low-income persons. ABS-sourced sample tends to align more true to the overall population demographic distributions and thus the associated adjustment weights are somewhat more uniform and less varied. This variance reduction efficaciously attenuates the sample’s design effect. The approach’s advantage is its representative sample.
This superior sampling approach is not inexpensive to carry out, particularly when targeting a low-incidence demographic like young adult children of gay parents. For example, to survey a general population sample, one could begin with a sample of 10,000 and estimate that approximately 1,000, or 1 percent would respond and complete the survey. However, if there are eligibility criteria to participate in the survey that screen out (for instance) 99 of every 100 persons willing to respond, to obtain 1,000 survey respondents, one would need to begin with a sample of 1,000,000 and estimate that 100,000, or 10 percent, would respond and complete the screener, and 1,000, or 1 percent of those would be determined eligible and would complete the survey.
Thus, even had a sample of 1,000,000 people — recruited via address-based sampling — produced only 500 young adult children actually raised by gay parents, that address-based sampling still would have produced twice the number of study subjects Regnerus used but is inaccurately categorizing as having been raised by gay parents.
To sum this point up; 1) Regnerus likely misleads when he asserts he compared young adult children of gay parents to young adult children of “intact biological families;” 2) In the study itself, and in his public promotions of the study, Regnerus likely misleads when he states that he would not by any means have been able to survey an adequate sampling of young gay adults substantially raised by gay parents up through the 1990s; and 3) Regnerus likely misleads when he states that he used the best existing survey method for surveying young adult children of gay parents.


Regnerus’ Contract with Knowledge Network for Survey Participants is Incentive Based 
An additional point of vital importance must be made regarding how Knowledge Network retains its panel of survey subjects. “Panel members” — as KN calls them — after being invited in, take on average at least one survey per week. Members are given payment incentives for completing screeners and surveys; they additionally are incentivized through entries into raffles and sweepstakes with cash and other prizes. Additionally, where KN recruits panelists who do not have computers, KN gives them a laptop with free monthly internet service.
Obviously, panel members desirous of the cash rewards, entries into sweepstakes and raffles, and of continuing with the free internet service and laptop, will want to remain in the game, answering weekly surveys. With their ongoing experience in answering different surveys, they learn how to answer tell-tale screener questions, such that they can go ahead with the survey rather than being cut off from it.
At the beginning of the Regnerus “survey instrument,” respondents are asked whether 1) they had lived with their biological mother and father until age 18; and then 2) whether they had ever had an adoptive parent.  At that point, a lot of possibilities remained, including, for example, that of being raised by a single parent.
This is extremely important: The next question was “From when you were born until age 18 (or until you left home to be on your own), did either of your parents ever have a romantic relationship with someone of the same sex?”
 
Knowledge Networks’ experienced survey takers looking at that question would understand that this study needed people who answer yes to that unusual screener question. They would understand that the study was substantially about such people. These survey-rewards-addicted responders want their incentive rewards for answering special and/or long surveys, they want their reward entries into raffles and sweepstakes. A survey taker could very well be motivated to answer “Yes,” even if in truth, neither of their parents ever had had a relationship with someone of the same sex. They could then just wing the rest of the answers. And, there is no way to fact check the thing; Regnerus takes for granted that his survey respondents always told the truth, even though many had documented incentives for not always telling the truth.
Regnerus Survey Manipulates Question Sequencing
In numerous ways, the Regnerus Survey Instrument was contrived to stack the deck against parents whom the study arbitrarily labeled as “gay.” To cite one example; the first question asks if the respondent lived with their biological mother and father through to 18. If the respondent answered “Yes,” they got skipped forward in the survey, and never asked whether one or both of their biological parents was homosexual. Meanwhile in real life, there are families like that of Leonard Bernstein, bi-sexual if not actually homosexual, and his wife Felicia. They lived together through the time their first two children were 18, even as Leonard was having liaisons with males. The Bernstein children had what the Regnerus study considers “good” outcomes, but would have attributed those good outcomes to an “Intact Biological Family,” even though the Bernstein father was at least as gay as anybody Regnerus labels “Gay father” in his study.
In sharp and disturbing relief against Regnerus’s manifest negligence about precisely determining the extent to which his respondents were raised by actual gay parents, the Regnerus Survey Instrument includes many questions of marginal if any meaning to the alleged topic of the study. For instance, the Survey Instrument asks “When did you last masturbate?
 
If Regnerus’s main aim was to compare young adult offspring raised by heterosexual married parents with young adult children raised by gay parents, why did his Survey Instrument omit crucial relevant questions while asking such flabbergastingly tangential things as “When did you last masturbate?”?
Regnerus’s written study Introduction makes plain that; 1) he was concerned about the impact of child-rearing studies on “the legal boundaries of marriage;”  – that phrase is an exact quote from Regnerus’s written study, and I’m going to repeat it because of its importance here: “the legal boundaries of marriage.” 2) he was concerned about study conclusions showing that homosexual orientation does not preclude one from being a good parent; and that 3) he was concerned about a recent slip, from exclusive perceived superiority, of “intact biological families,” and that 4) he wanted to use this study to help to restore “intact biological families” to their position of exclusive perceived superiority.
Regnerus Funding Arranged by NOM Head Robert George
Regnerus’s funder Robert George of the anti-gay National Organization for Marriage is obsessively concerned with “the legal boundaries of marriage.” Robert George has written a draft for a federal constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriages throughout the nation. He does not like to see gay parenting study results with good child outcomes, as they are work against his known, ferocious anti-gay political goals. George’s aims in arranging for the funding of Regnerus’s study precisely match the concerns expressed in Regnerus’s introduction.
 
After George got Regnerus his $35,000 “planning grant” through The Witherspoon Institute, the study plan was cunningly elaborated to guarantee that gay parents would come out looking bad. Regnerus has been lying to the public to hide that truth. For example, writing in Slate, Regnerus said that all of the family scholars involved in the study design “lean left.” Yet we know some came from Brigham Young University, whose “Honor Code” at the time of the study design forbid all BYU community members from “promoting homosexual relations as being morally acceptable.” And BYU has a formidable record of enforcing its “Honor Code.” How credible is Regnerus’s claim that his study designers from Brigham Young University “lean left” on gay parenting? Who are those Brigham Young people?  Can I interview them for publication, so that their BYU higher-ups will be sure to know that they “lean left” on gay parenting?
Even more importantly, if one is interested in a genuinely scientific result, why would any political leaning matter, above one’s devotion to scientific integrity? Why is Regnerus defending his study to the public, by alleging that Brigham Young University family scholars “lean left” instead of by saying that they are first and foremost rigorous and uncompromising scientists?
Now, in what ways is the deceptive Regnerus title “The New Family Structures Study” similar to deceptions known to be promulgated by Regnerus’s anti-gay-rights funding arranger Robert George?
Regnerus did not survey anybody raised in an era with legal recognition of same-sex spouses. And — as previously explained — he absolutely did not survey anybody raised in any genuinely new family structure. But he did write into his study Introduction a concern with how child-rearing studies impact “the legal boundaries of marriage.” He also wrote into his study introduction a concern with re-establishing, through this study, the exclusive perceived superiority of the “intact biological family.”

 Regnerus’s title of “The New Family Structures Study,” for public consumption purposes, in reality references no one studied, but rather, families who more recently have been benefiting from expanded same-sex couples’ legal recognition in domestic partnerships, civil unions and marriages.
Regnerus has been promoting his study as evidence against expansion of legal recognition of gay couples’ relationships. In one of his Slate articles, Regnernus wrote that gay-rights “advocates would do well from here forward to avoid simply assuming the kids are all right,” and then, after barely paying lip service to the notion that marriage recognition could perhaps help children being raised by gay parents, he ends his article by saying that the New Family Structures Study  “may suggest that the household instability that the NFSS reveals is just too common among same-sex couples to take the social gamble of spending significant political and economic capital to esteem and support this new (but tiny) family form while Americans continue to flee the stable, two-parent biological married model, the far more common and accomplished workhorse of the American household, and still—according to the data, at least—the safest place for a kid.”
Despite Regnerus’s politically brazen and fallacious statements, Regnerus’s study could not possibly have revealed household instability among same-sex couples raising children, because by Regnerus’s own admission in the written study, he did not study same-sex couples raising children, yet there he is, writing in mass-market online venues that his study “reveals” that household instability among same-sex couples raising children is “just too common.”
That false claim is fully characteristic of anti-gay bigots’ argumentation against legal recognition for gay couples. Any of NOM’s Robert George, Maggie Gallagher, Brian Brown or Thomas Peters might have unloosed it themselves. It is 1) too pointed and wild-eyed in its elaboration; and 2) too involved with “turning the knife in the wound” against gay rights after ejaculating a known falsehood about the study and about gay couples raising chidren; and finally 3) too clearly politically-motivated to be the words of a sociologist who does not agree with its substance.


Regnerus Study’s Excerpts Exploited by Religious Right for Political Gain – Is Regnerus in Cahoots with NOM’s Robert George?
If Regnerus’s friend Robert George had paid Regnerus to be one of NOM’sExpert Witness Project” professors producing excerptible anti-gay-rights quotes to inflame voters’ passions against gay rights, he could not have done any better than he did with that last quote from Regnerus.  And as a matter of documented record, Regnerus’s inflammatory, false, highly emotional and propagandistic anti-gay-rights quote is being used all over the country and beyond right now to incite people to deeper misunderstandings and distrust of gay people and their families. A more in-depth understanding of the political motivations of Regnerus’s funders may be had from this reporter’s articleNOM-Regnerus ‘Gay Parenting’ Study; A One-Percenter Dirty Campaign Trick.
Robert George’s Witherspoon Institute – a Regnerus funder — has devoted a stand-alone site to the Regnerus and Marks studies – where the Regnerus Slate article with the aforementioned offending quote is at the top of the site’s list of study-related articles “From the Web.”
Robert George’s NOM has a website page dedicated to “Marriage Talking Points.” There, anti-gay-rights activists are told that one phrase to avoid using “at all costs” is “Ban gay marriage,” because studies show that use of that phrase causes NOM to lose about ten percentage points of support in polls. Even though NOM exists to “ban gay marriage,” and the NOM pledge signed by Romney seeks a ban of same-sex marriage, NOM’s “Marriage Talking Points” page tells people to say that they support “marriage as the union of husband and wife” and not that they want to “ban gay marriage.”


That same brand of political, deliberately deceptive, anti-gay-rights attack through scheming, misleading words appears to have been applied to the Regnerus title of “The New Family Structures Study.” The manifest goals of that deceptive title are 1) to be able to exploit the study, towards a cessation of legal recognition of same-sex couples, which anti-gay-rights forces want to be able to do because, as a matter of documented reality; 2) increasingly common legal recognition is – for legal purposes — (including the legal rights of the people in the families) — creating actual New Family Structures, while Regnerus’s study meanwhile is serving 3) to give anti-gay-rights forces fraudulent cover for alleging that Regnerus has studied child outcomes for those actual new legal family structures, and shown that homosexuals are dangerous to children, even though; 4) Regnerus has not studied new family structures at all.
Regnerus did not even study the authentic human precursors to the new legal family structures for same-sex parents, such as the two lesbian mothers who raised Joe Valentine, even though by means of address-based sampling, he would have been able to do so.
Robert George’s NOM’s 1) instructions to anti-gay-rights activists not to say that they want to “ban gay marriage,” has in common with 2) Regnerus’s study title “The New Family Structures Study” the aim of  3) distracting people from an accurate understanding of the true nature of George’s and Regnerus’s anti-gay-rights activities.
All of the above must be fully and appropriately weighed and investigated by the University of Texas, Austin in its investigation of Associate Professor Mark Regnerus and included within the current Scientific Misconduct allegations that have been lodged against him.

Especially considering that Regnerus himself has admitted that 1) had he done this study through the National Institutes of Health instead of  2) through the Witherspoon Institute’s and the Bradley Foundation’s obsessed anti-gay-rights crusaders; 3) the higher scientific research standards that the NIH would have required him unwaveringly to observe would have 4) worked to the long-term best interests of science, it 5) defies belief that any observer concerned with scientific integrity could judge this matter without finding Regnerus guilty of scientific misconduct.

New York City-based novelist and freelance writer Scott Rose’s LGBT-interest by-line has appeared on Advocate.com, PoliticusUSA.com, The New York Blade, Queerty.com, Girlfriends and in numerous additional venues. Among his other interests are the arts, boating and yachting, wine and food, travel, poker and dogs. His “Mr. David Cooper’s Happy Suicide” is about a New York City advertising executive assigned to a condom account.

Source: thenewcivilrightsmovement.com/university-of-texas-opens-investigation-of-regnerus-study-ncrm-reporting-plays-central-role/legal-issues/2012/07/01/42495

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