A last-minute letter to the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals is recanting its use of a controversial study that is used by anti-gay organizations to say same-sex parents are inferior to heterosexual parents.
In the Wednesday letter, Gene Schaerr — Utah’s hired gun representing the state in its appeal of Judge Shelby’s ruling that Amendment 3 is unconstitutional — admits that, due to “sample limitations,” the “Regnerus study cannot be viewed as conclusively establishing that raising a child in a same-sex household produces outcomes that are inferior to those produced by man-woman parenting arrangements.”
Oral arguments are scheduled to happen Thursday in Denver.
University of Texas sociologist Mark Regnerus has testified before courts for states defending their ban on gay marriage. He was the leader of a study that screened thousands of people, ages 18 to 39, and found roughly 250 who said they grew up in a house where a mother or father eventually had a same-sex relationship.
He found those 250 were more likely to have problems — welfare dependence, less education, marijuana use — than young adults from stable families led by heterosexuals. But he later acknowledged that his study didn’t include children raised by same-sex couples in a stable relationship.
The results ignited a blast of criticism when they were published in an academic journal in 2012.
“We wish to emphasize the very limited relevance to this case of the comparison addressed by Professor Regnerus,” Schaerr writes. “As the State’s briefing makes clear, the State’s principal concern is the potential long-term impact of a redefinition of marriage on the children of heterosexual parents. The debate over man-woman versus same-sex parenting has little if any bearing on that issue, given that being raised in a same-sex household would normally not be one of the alternatives available to children of heterosexual parents.”
The editor of the journal that published the study has since acknowledged his regret for including it. The university opened an investigation about possible scientific misconduct, but closed it early in the process.
The study was financed by the New Jersey-based Witherspoon Institute, which says its mission is to help the public understand the “moral foundations” of democratic societies.
The American Psychological Association has said there’s no scientific basis for believing that gays and lesbians are unfit parents based on sexual orientation. But Regnerus believes it’s too early for sweeping statements.
“We aren’t anywhere near saying there’s conclusive evidence” that children with same-sex parents grow up with no differences when compared to kids with heterosexual parents, he said.