Saturday, June 23, 2012

The Regnerus Study – More Questions

The other day I took up the Regnerus study of children raised with lesbian mothers as a positive sign of how things have changed for lesbians and gays.  I saw the fuss over the publication of his research findings as a positive sign.   A study constructed to show gay families in a bad light was getting the criticism it deserved, from all manner of mainstream sources.  We’ve come a long way since electric shock therapy and book titles like Those Unhappy Gays.

Ultimately, an academic study cannot and should not be tried in a court of public opinion.  A research project should be studied and evaluated by standards of good scholarship, openly and objectively.   The most effective criticism of the study will ultimately be done by Regnerus’s peers in sociology and others with standing in the academic community who take the time to analyze his contribution to research properly.  I am convinced that over time, as the New Family Structure Study (NFSS)  is subjected to more and more critical analysis, it will be seen less as a contribution to knowledge than as an illustration of how insidiously homophobia seeps into our national cultural life.

As this process unfolds, those of us outside academia can of course speculate and ask questions.  After putting that blog entry online the other day, I went back and looked a little more closely at the study.  In doing so, I came up with questions and comments ­­­­– about the structure of the study, how the study was conducted, and what the author’s focus suggests about his motivation – which I want to share with you here.  I am assuming you have read the numerous criticisms of the study* and will not repeat them here, except when they lead to additional nagging questions than the ones I had earlier. 

In looking at the way Regnerus structured his study, four questions emerge.  First of all, Regnerus claimed that previous studies of gays raising children were not valid because the researchers chose gay kids to look at, instead of the general population.   But the intent of those studies clearly was to demonstrate gays could raise children successfully.  Of course they chose successful examples.  Those studies were not about causation, but about making a point.  Regnerus too claims no attempts were made to explain causation in his study.  If so, why the insistence on random selection?  (To hear Regnerus himself discuss his study, listen here.)

Secondly, for the sake of argument, let’s say that only a large study will do, that you need a large corpus on which to collect statistics on subjects selected at random to form meaningful conclusions.  If that’s what Regnerus says needed to be done, why, you have to wonder, did he not do that?

In the days when his subjects were growing up, anti-gay sentiment was the norm.  People had good reason to hide their homosexuality, and because gays had not yet started raising kids in large numbers, Regnerus was unable to locate a sufficient number of kids of lesbian and gay parents to satisfy his own demand. 

He might have admitted at this point that the study he was calling for could not be made at the present time, and that he would have to wait until there were enough gay parents to show up on a mechanism generating subjects at random.  He could then have matched stable gay families with stable straight families and carried out a more proper study.

For reasons that remain unclear, he did not do this.  Evidently calculating that something would be better than nothing, when he couldn’t find the category he needed, he made one up.   He decided to label as “lesbian” any woman who had ever had even a single experience of sex with another woman – as reported by her child, no less, whom she would have to share such information with, obviously.  Just as the “pollution” theory of race concludes that a black person is a person with one drop of “black blood,” Regnerus’s definition of a lesbian is any woman who has had a single sexual experience with another woman.  These ways of determining who’s black and who’s not, who’s gay and who’s not are good enough for racists and homophobes.  They ought not be the way a social scientist creates categories.  The Regnerus study hardly constitutes a “correction” in the lesbian head-of-family literature.  We don’t have enough subjects for our study?  This will have to do?

Third,  questions were set up in such a way that skewed results were inevitable.   So long as a parent’s romantic relationship with a same-sex partner did not cause family trauma and were unknown to the respondent, the study regards such parents as heterosexual.  (Happy lesbians need not apply for this category, in other words.)  If, however, a parent’s romantic relationship with a same-sex partner caused family trauma (which would lead to the child learning of it), then the parent gets identified as homosexual.   The survey may have intended to look for homosexuality, but all it actually uncovered was family trauma, including complete family breakdown.  Can anybody be surprised that family trauma is associated with negative outcomes for children?  

And finally,  this was an apples-to-oranges comparison.  The IBF (Intact Biological Family) category is a sociological structure based on form.   The LM (Lesbian mother) category is a psychological structure, based on sexual orientation.  They are not only badly formed categories.  They are not parallel when they are formed.

In addition to the structural flaws which overshadow what usefulness the study might have, there are questions about how the study was conducted that should give us pause. Normally a research project of this magnitude takes up to a year to process.  How did this study come to be produced in only 40 days?  This question is about smoke and not fire, obviously, but it does suggest that people suspecting a connection between Regnerus have some cause for their suspicions.**   When asked why he used rightwing sources and not somebody like the National Institute of Health funding, for example, Regnerus responded:

I had a feeling when we started this project that it would not survive the politics of, in my opinion, the peer review system at the National Institute of Health (funding) -- and it takes so long to get money from them, and there are revisions and revisions; I understand that works to the long-term benefit of science, but some scholars don't feel like going that route.***

And then what are we to make of Regnerus’s statement:

…the longer the household stay of the two-LMs, the better the kids’ outcomes appear at face value, but a meaningful statistical comparison of those few is just not possible. Some feel it was unethical to have moved forward once I realized this. That’s extreme, a standard to which research prior to this study has not been held. I thought the information we could learn deserved a hearing.

Sure.  If the information he could learn was what it was purported to be, it could be useful.  And what’s this complaint about being held to a higher standard than the lower standard of previous studies he criticizes for their low standard?  If he wants to keep his cake, he can’t very well eat it.  And such thinking out loud on his part does not inspire confidence.

Once he realized his conclusions would not hold up if he included lesbian mother relationships characterized as stable, he really should have discontinued the study, not plowed through with paste-overs.  This underlines the fact that this was a study of stable relationships (good) and unstable relationships (bad), not of lesbian vs. hetero mom-and-dad relationships.  Why does he not own up to this?  If Regnerus had really intended to demonstrate the value of "intact, biological families," he could have sought out children of straight parents who were divorced or widowed or unmarried and reached the same conclusion, one assumes.   But he chose to substitute for “troubled straight families” “gay families.”  And not real gay families, but families headed by people he falsely concludes will label themselves as gay.  Why work in such a sloppy manner?

These questions lead us to wonder what was Regnerus up to in synthesizing such a hodgepodge group to set against his “intact” family group?  Was this a conscious manipulation of data?   Many were quick to assume the answer must be political.  Regnerus adamantly denies this.  In an exchange between Regnerus and one of his more insightful critics,  William Saletan, in Slate, Regnerus asks,

Don’t you think if this were a right-wing conspiracy, it would be headed by someone who’s more savvy, political, one-sided, and predictable than I am? There is no conspiracy here, just a piece of contested social science from a study funded by a pair of organizations many of your readers distrust. Critics are disputing the meaning of the study—a meaning I have not assigned to it—as well as the very nerve to have conducted it in the first place. [emphasis mine]

Regnerus has to be pretty na├»ve to wonder where all the flak is coming from.  He has just demonstrated that kids in troubled homes don’t do as well as children in non-troubled homes.  Why did he go to all that trouble when we already have the common-sense answer?   What are we to make of Regnerus’s claim that “the intact, biological family remains the safest bet”? 

Safest bet?  Really?  Would he now like to  do a study of children raised by black mothers and then reach the conclusion that statistically they do not do as well as children raised by white mothers?  What would we all do with that information?  Why take $800,000 to prove the obvious?  Why not use it to research ways of improving the quality of the lives of children not raised in white-bread homes?

The NFSS study focuses on different family structures and concludes that one structure is best.  If that were true, even if his study were not flawed and that claim could be made legitimately, what are we to do with this information?  Do we now shut down families run by a single parent?   Take kids who are adopted and put them back with their birth parents?  Take kids away from same-sex parents and give them to somebody else?  Where are we to go with Regnerus’s conclusions?  He insists that he wanted the chips to fall where they may, that if it turned out that kids in “intact” homes with their own biological parents turned out to be better off, that we should have that information demonstrated empirically.  Fine.  Now what? 

Back in the 70s when Californians were confronted by the Briggs initiative, which would have made it illegal for gays to teach in the public schools, Harvey Milk asked Briggs, “Since you know that most child molesters are straight, why are you going after the minority of molesters in the gay community and attacking all gays?”  Briggs answer was informative.  “We should eliminate the ones we can,” he responded.

That answer came to mind when it became clear that of all the groups involved in Regnerus’s study it would be the lesbians that would get the attention, allegedly because they appeared to be running the most dysfunctional families.  Again – and this cannot be repeated too often – they were not running the most dysfunctional families.  Regnerus’s study is so sloppy that there is no indication when he says lesbian that it’s lesbians he is talking about!

But that aside for present purposes, while the Regnerus study focused on not only gay and lesbian parents, but single mothers, parents who adopt, and other “new forms” of families which he hypothesized would not be “ideal” (hence the choice of control group), it is clear it’s the gay households he was after. Regnerus reveals his bias in the way he criticizes previous studies of gay parent households.  In making his case for a better cross-section of American homes to compare with “intact” homes, he tells us that the “scholarly community” and “media,” have a “penchant” for focusing on “this most elite form of childbearing.”   Elite is a political word in today’s public discourse.  There’s nothing elite about middle class families who take in children as their own.  Why label them elite?  Why not “families of design?”   Or “families whose children were clearly wanted”?

What does this focus on the (perfectly?) "intact" family on the one hand and the imperfect family on the other all lead to?  Regnerus can obviously get by with the usual – I just made the bomb, the gun, the virus – it’s not up to me how it is used.  Fair enough.   One doesn’t want to criticize research simply because one doesn’t like its findings, obviously.  But one can wonder why the researcher chose to ask one question, and not another.

In an interview on public radio with Cynthia Osborne, Regnerus’s colleague and participant in initial discussions of the study at the University of Texas Austin,  Osborne observes that when we identify the fact that girls who don’t do well on math tests or blacks don’t do well in school, we do not jump to the conclusion that girls should not study math and blacks should not go to school.  We do have to listen, however, to folks on the right argue that gays should not marry or adopt children, and are certain to use this flawed study to buttress their claim.  Why was their task made so much easier?  Can Regnerus really claim to be just the messenger and not part of the message?

The point, Osborne says, it that the question Regnerus asked was not the question we want asked.   It’s not the question that we’re legislating, not the question that would aid in policy making.  What’s troubling about all research on families, she says, and not just the Regnerus study, is that when studying any form of “other families” – adoption, step-families, same-sex families, single parenting, the child in those families has experienced disruption.  To say that disruption can lead to problems is a truism – not a research finding.  To say it’s a “safe bet” that intact homes are better than dysfunctional homes is not merely a truism.  It’s a sign of wrong-headedness about how to engage with life as it is actually lived.  

One can’t get into Regnerus’s head, of course, and seeing homophobia everywhere could of course be a sign of paranoia.  The fact that he’s a former evangelical turned Roman Catholic may not have colored his choices.   His right wing sponsors may not have influenced his findings.  One still has to wonder, though, when it quacks like a duck why, given all the changes in attitude toward gays and lesbians since the days in which his subjects grew up, all the evidence of happy gay families, Regnerus would zero in on a time when homophobia was still strong.   To prove what?  That it had negative effects on kids?  To what end?

Peter Sprigg of the Family Research Council, James Dobson’s lobbying group against LGBT rights, abortion rights, stem-cell research and global warming, after reviewing the NFSS study, has declared

The myths that children of homosexual parents are “no different” from other children and suffer “no harm” from being raised by homosexual parents have been shattered forever.

This is in direct contradiction to Regnerus’s own stated conclusion that his study has demonstrated no cause and effect connection between sexual orientation and dysfunctionality or that gays and lesbians make bad parents.

As Alvin McEwen of AlterNet points out, if Regnerus speaks out against such misappropriation of his study’s findings, he will retain some credibility.  If he does not, one will have to conclude he is complicit in furthering the general efforts of his right wing sponsors to discredit gays and lesbians. 

In the end, whatever Regnerus’s motives were is a side issue, and while asking about them may lead us to something we might have overlooked by not asking about them, we should not miss the real issue at stake here – that if we are going to use academic research to inform public policy, we need to get it right.

We find it frustrating and annoying that even the good that Regnerus may have done will be misused for political ends, and in this age when money seems to buy everybody and everything, it can set back the cause of gay liberation for a time.

But not forever.  People like to fix things.  Bad studies can have the effect of prompting good researchers into action.

Let’s hope that’s what happens here.

* If you are not familiar with the critiques, you might start with Burroway and Saletan and the follow-up dialogue between Saletan and Regnerus more recently.  Or a very good blog summary here.   

** There’s more on the smoke and fire question:  The study’s main source of funding is the Witherspoon Institute.  The Institute’s webpage pays lip service to independence and objectivity.  They make a point of declaring they are encouraging a diverse team of experts to conduct the New Family Structures Study (NFSS), scholars who, they say “hold divergent views on the normative questions in contemporary debates over marriage and the family.”

At the same time, one member of the Witherspoon Institute is Jennifer Morse, a Proposition 8 spokesperson, founder of and president of the conservative and largely Roman Catholic oriented Ruth Institute  (“one man one woman for life”), and colleague of Maggie Gallagher, chief spokesperson for the National Organization for Marriage, a group so ideologically committed to the obvious argument that kids need stable homes and that gay homes are inherently unstable that one cannot imagine them endorsing any view to the contrary or supporting a study which would engender one.

The other source of funding is the Bradley Foundation, a Milwaukee, Wisconsin organization whose mission statement includes includes support for “limited, competent government; a dynamic marketplace for economic, intellectual, and cultural activity; and a vigorous defense, at home and abroad, of American ideas and institutions.”  Some of the Bradley Foundations grant recipients  include Ed Meese III of the Heritage Foundation (2012), Jeb Bush (2011), Fox News commentator Michael Barone and Wall Street Journal editor Paul A. Gigot (2010).  Once again, there is no reason why the Bradley Foundation might not be giving some of its money to furthering liberal causes like same-sex marriage, but one would probably not to want to bet too much money on it.

 ***Several people have filed complaints about the legitimacy of the study’s funding with the University of Texas.  Read about those here.


Monday, June 18, 2012

It’s Getting Better

Homophobia, like racism, sexism, ethnocentrism, and all the other “us” vs. “them” constructs human beings have created, is probably here to stay.  We’ll never be rid of these evils entirely, because they are grounded in our deepest fears and insecurities.  We pass them on to the next generation culturally, unconsciously, at the level of what we call “common sense,” making them hard to root out, especially once they get “sanctified” by religion and elevated to the level of divine approval.

But alongside religion is another strain, an appreciation for reason and the notions of the Enlightenment, an appreciation for universal human rights.  When Enlightenment moves ahead of religion in this endless tug of war, we advance.

This has been a good year in the battle against homophobia.  Historically, American whites went from Jim Crow values to supporting a black president, women went from not being allowed to vote before 1920 to near equality with men today, and gays went from association with “the love that dare not speak its name” and “I thought people like that killed themselves” to “What's the wuss?” Americans supporting same-sex marriage are now in the majority.

Seen in the larger slow-but-sure context of human rights progress, this already changed and still changing attitude towards LGBT people is justification for a cautious optimism.  Despite wholesale criticism of foot-dragging on the part of the government, Hillary Clinton’s speech before the United Nations on recognition of gay rights world wide, and Obama’s “evolution” on gay marriage, have done wonders.   Consider also the about-face by Robert Spitzer, a man who has been referred to as “arguably the most influential psychiatrist of the 20th Century.”    He is credited with being the man behind the removal of homosexuality as a psychiatric disorder in the American Psychiatric Association's Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders  in 1973.  In 2001, he took a step backwards when he suggested one could will oneself out of homosexuality.   His remarks gave homophobes a field day.  But now Spitzer has admitted he was wrong and pulled the rug out from under the “pray the gay away” crowd once and for all.   

Not that there aren’t bumps in the road.   Spitzer asked Focus on the Family homophobe-in-chief, James Dobson to take down his misleading 2001 statement, since it no longer represented his views.  Dobson refused at first, arguing he has Spitzer’s written permission and is not breaking any laws.  Way to go, Mr. God-Person.  Check out footnote number 4 on their “Same-sex counseling” page.   It references Spitzer’s 2003 statement without informing readers Spitzer has changed his views on the subject.  On a related site, they call Spitzer’s most recent move a result of political pressure and compare him to Galileo, poor fellow, victim of the ideas of the day.  Find me a better contender for Chutzpah of the Year Award.   But in the end, anyone with a natural curiosity can see how Dobson has made a fool of himself with his intransigence.

Then there are the (for me, at least) fun examples.  All the silly people.

The folks at the Apostolic Truth Tabernacle in Greensburg, Indiana, for example.   Somebody posted a YouTube of a four-year old from their flock singing “Ain’t no homo gonna make it to heaven.”   It shows the church congregation hooting and hollaring in support, and the kid’s father shouting out, “That’s my boy.” 

Don’t miss the woods for the trees, however.  While this upset all sorts of folk, the real story lies in the reaction around the country to the story.  This YouTube of talk show host David Pakman, for example, where he suggests giving the pastor a call and wonders aloud whether this constitutes child abuse. 

Then there’s young Caiden Cowger, a 14-year old in West Virginia, clearly channeling Glen Beck and Rush Limbaugh (he addresses his audience as “ladies and gentlemen”) with his own talk show (“the truth for the youth”).   Caiden uploaded a diatribe against gays, complete with the speech patterns of backwoods America – “younger people is turning out to be homosexuals…” and dumb as a doorpost claims such as “homosexuality is a belief,”  “thirty people in my county are homosexuals,” and “Obama is turning these kids gay.”   Cenk Uygur of The Young Turks takes him on

And  my favorite, currently - Pastor Worley, of Providence Road Baptist Church in Maiden, North Carolina, who suggested it would be a peachy keen idea to lock gays and lesbians up behind a electrified wire fence and drop food on them till they died a natural death.  Gays would die out, he said, apparently clueless of how babies are made.  (Hint to the good pastor - Gay folk are born mostly to straight mommies and daddies, not to gay ones.)   (For another look at the doorpost set, check out an interview Anderson Cooper has with one of Pastor Worley’s parishoners.)

Not so funny are the attempts by the literate conservative right to make a serious case against homosexuality.  The recent Regnerus study, for example.  Whether Mark Regnerus himself can be labeled a homophobe is not for me to say.  But there is little doubt the manipulation of his categories in his research project reflects a definite homophobic slant.   The way its findings are already being put to political use to fight gay marriage and gay adoption, even by writers of The New York Times, is homophobia at full bore.  

Mark Regnerus is an associate professor of sociology at the University of Texas at Austin and the author of over 30 published articles and book chapters on sexual behavior, religion, and family. 

Concerned that previous studies on gay and lesbian families were flawed or otherwise inadequate because subjects were selected on the basis of convenience, he set out to correct that weakness.*  With nearly $800,000 in funding from two right-wing organizations, The Witherspoon Institute** and the Bradley Foundation, Regnerus collected data on 2500 people from a corpus of 15,000 Americans selected at random.  Results of his study, known as the New Family Structures Study, were published last week in Social Science Research

The goal of the study, to “provide scholars with an up-to-date portrait of the association between a variety of different family structure background experiences and the welfare of young adults” seems to have been met.  And that “portrait” shows, among other things, in Regnerus’ words, that “the children of women who’ve had same-sex relationships fare quite differently than those in stable, biologically-intact mom-and-pop families.”

It takes no time at all before one can smell a rat in these conclusions.  If Regnerus had made the claim that children from “intact” homes do better than children from “dysfunctional” homes, there would be nothing to complain about.  There also would be no reason for doing such a study, since proving functional is better than dysfunctional is up there with proving the sun rises in the East.  It turns out that proving the sun rises in the East is all that Regnerus actually did, ultimately.  He has essentially two groups: the “control group” - families where children live in mom and dad homes, where practically nobody is into drugs, there is no adultery or divorce (because that’s how the category is defined) and everybody lives happily ever after – and the “other” group, where everybody who is disqualified from the “happy” group is put – kids of divorced parents, kids living with single parents, and kids being raised by gays and lesbians.  That group, it turns out, does less well – it has more problems with drugs and crime, does less well educationally, and – you name the dysfunction.  More about this in a minute.

How, one wonders, did Regnerus get away with pulling off such a stunt in the first place?  One gets funded for research by showing a “lacuna” in the literature.  In this case, Regnerus argued, with justification,  that previous studies of gay families showing them to be as healthy as non-gay families are flawed, because the data for those studies are drawn from “convenience” samples, and not random samples.  Somebody wishing to study children of lesbians and gays would go to gay organizations to find their subjects, say, and perhaps use the “snowball” method of collecting them, asking the subjects to find other subjects from among their friends and acquaintances.  This method, Regnerus argues, almost guarantees a gay-positive data base.  When children from these homes, in which the children who are wanted and given special attention are compared to children from the average mother/father home, where they may be wanted or not, abused or not, it’s no wonder it will turn out that the children from gay households do as well as or better than their so-called traditional family counterparts.   But what if instead of selecting from happy gay families one selected from the larger population at random?

The reasonableness of that argument is what normally might get him the funding he needed.   Problem is, 800K is a lot of money these days for an academic study, so Regnerus turned to right winger sources, no doubt, because they are both flush and have a vested interest in any study aiming to show intact families in a positive light.  Regnerus' credentials as an evangelical, he maintains, have nothing to do with it.  And Witherspoon swears high and low they wouldn't dream of coloring the findings.  The fact that analysis of his data shows that children raised in “intact families with a mother and a father” are much better off than children raised in gay families, well, it could just as easily have gone the other way.  At least you can't say the biases of previous research have not been corrected. 

Not so fast.  If you look at how he selected subjects for his study, something pops out at you.  First, he asked the question, “From when you were born until age 18 … did either of your parents ever have a romantic relationship with someone of the same sex?” If the respondents said yes, they were put in the “gay father” (GF) or “lesbian mother” (LM) category, regardless of how they answered other questions, and regardless of whether or not their parents identified as gay.  If they said no, and further questions showed they lived with the same mother and father all the while they were growing up, they were classified as IBF (children of an “intact biological family.” )   If they were adopted, they were put into a separate “adopted” category.  Children from divorced parents, children living with step parents and children in single-parent households were similarly separated out.   Unbelievably (and can this be an accident?), children from broken families were excluded from the IBF category but included in the GF and LM categories.  14% of the subjects in this group had spent time in foster care.

In other words, the paper inappropriately compares children raised by two heterosexual parents for 18 years, on the one hand, with children who experience family transitions – like foster care – or who live with single or divorced parents, or in blended families, on the other.   The limited number of respondents arbitrarily classified as having a gay or lesbian parent are combined regardless of their experiences of family instability.  The findings, it turns out, are that the categories look like what the categories were designed to look like.

What’s wrong with the methodology is captured by John Corvino:

Question: What do the following all have in common?

A heterosexually married female prostitute who on rare occasion services women

A long-term gay couple who adopt special-needs children

A never-married straight male prison inmate who sometimes seeks sexual release with other male inmates

A woman who comes out of the closet, divorces her husband, and has a same-sex relationship at age 55, after her children are grown

Ted Haggard, the disgraced evangelical pastor who was caught having drug fueled-trysts with a male prostitute over a period of several years

A lesbian who conceives via donor insemination and raises several children with her long-term female partner

Give up?   The answer -- assuming that they all have biological or adopted adult children between the ages of 18 and 39 -- is that they would all be counted as "lesbian mothers" or "gay fathers" in Mark Regnerus's new study.

Corvino is hardly alone in spotting the weaknesses of the Regnerus study.  His criticisms are echoed by William Saletan in Slate, Jim Burroway in Box Turtle Bulletin, Ta-Nehisi Coates in the Atlantic Monthly, Amy Davidson at The New Yorker (“breathtakingly sloppy”), Nathaniel Frank at The Los Angeles TimesAnna North, at BuzzfeedRyan Jaslow at CBS News, Wayne Besen  Andrew Sullivan  at The Daily Beast, and last, but not least, by Mark Regnerus’ own reservations.

The study has it defenders, of course: Dr. Keith Ablow of Fox News, Ross Douthat at the New York Times, Benedict Carey, also at the New York Times, Patrick F. Fagan of MARRI (The Marriage and Religion Research Institute), and Michael J. McManus of Marriage Savers.

I am sure I do not have an exhaustive list, just a list collected as I read around in the subject this past week, a little each day.  To get the flavor of the case for or against the Regnerus study, I suggest you do the same.  Read around in the arguments.   They are eye-openers.  Note how the critics zero in on the flawed methodology and the supporters of the study tend to reveal the “traditional family” or “God’s will” ideology.  Or, like Benedict Carey at the New York Times, make statements like this:

Gay-rights groups attacked the study, financed by conservative foundations, as biased and poorly done even before its publication on Sunday in the journal Social Science Research. 

But outside experts, by and large, said the research was rigorous, providing some of the best data yet comparing outcomes for adult children with a gay parent with those with heterosexual parents.... if the split were between gays on the one hand and experts on the other, rather than between those looking, for the most part, at the methodology and finding it wanting, and those looking at the conclusions and finding them to their liking.  Nothing new here, given the characteristic divide in America’s culture war between reason and evidence-based claims on the one hand, and religion and asserted truth on the other. 

My point is not that the criticism of the Regnerus study overwhelms the support of it, although that claim can be made, but that people now have wide access to evidence that homophobic America is being called to task.

Cynics will point out that a list of lefty publications does not a case make, and that Americans will go on believing what they want to believe.

Illusions, however, once shattered, don’t get put back together.

We will always have new illusions, of course.  But the illusions based on historic misrepresentations of LGBT folk are popping like soap bubbles.

And that is a good thing.

*Regnerus points out the drawbacks of convenience sampling: “Suppose, for example, that the respondents have higher levels of education than comparable lesbians who do not frequent such events or bookstores, or who live elsewhere. If such a sample is used for research purposes, then anything that is correlated with educational attainment—like better health, more deliberative parenting, and greater access to social capital and educational opportunities for children—will be biased.” 

 ** The Witherspoon Institute also has ties to the Family Research Council, the NationalOrganization for Marriage, and ultra-conservative Catholic groups like OpusDei

Saturday, June 16, 2012

Buy Wheaties

 General Mills is in Minnesota.

Minnesota is facing a vote on whether to pass an amendment to the state’s constitution which would ban same-sex marriage.

General Mill’s CEO, Ken Powell, said he was agin it. 

Just like Starbucks was against a similar amendment in Washington, where Starbucks is headquartered.

The misnamed National Organization for Marriage, Maggie Gallagher’s anti-anti group, organized a “Dump Starbucks” campaign.  They collected 44,387 signatures in support of anti-anti.  But then gays and the other Spread-Civil-Rights people got together and formed their own group, a “Thank you, Starbucks” campaign.  They got 650,109 signatures.

Now NOM is going after General Mills.

Buy Wheaties.