Mark Regnerus, the author of a widely discredited 2012 study purporting to show that same-sex parents are bad for children, will be speaking this weekend at a conference sponsored by the Ruth Institute, a project of the National Organization for Marriage (NOM). Geared toward college students, the annual It Takes a Family (ITAF) conference addresses issues like marriage (should be heterosexual), family (should also be heterosexual), and sex (heterosexual and should ideally not take place outside of marriage).
Today, in the summer issue of its Intelligence Report, the Southern Poverty Law Center released an interview with Dr. Darren Sherkat, professor of sociology at Southern Illinois University and board member of the respected peer-reviewed journal Social Science Research, which published Regnerus’ study. Sherkat was charged with auditing the study’s publication process. He came to the same conclusions that scores of other sociologists and social scientists have: The Regnerus study is severely flawed and should not have been published.
Regardless, the study was immediately trumpeted by anti-gay groups and has been used as a tool in anti-gay battles against marriage equality. The day after its publication, for example, the American College of Pediatricians (a tiny anti-gay breakaway group from the American Academy of Pediatrics) cited it in an amicus brief for a court case in support of the Defense of Marriage Act. In the firestorm the followed the study’s publication, questions arose about the timing of its release, and there is information to suggest that Regnerus was actually recruited by the Witherspoon Institute, an influential conservative think tank that opposes marriage equality, to produce the study (the Institute granted Regnerus, an associate professor of sociology at the University of Texas, nearly $700,000). Correspondence between the Institute’s president and donors seems to indicate that the president clearly expected results unfavorable to marriage equality.
Regnerus is now a darling of the anti-gay right, even though he has publicly admitted that his study’s conclusions are too weak to reach the conclusions that many have drawn. That clearly hasn’t stopped the invitations. He’ll be speaking at the Ruth Institute’s upcoming ITAF about why pre-marital sex is bad and how to understand same-sex parenting studies (he may even bring up one of his other claims – that watching pornography makes straight men support gay marriage). He’s clearly found a receptive audience for his work, and he’ll be in good company, like fellow conference speakers Robert Gagnon, a theology professor who has railed about the “significant pathological side” of homosexuality, which he has linked to pedophilia, and Autumn Leva, a spokesperson for Minnesota for Marriage, a group that has claimed that gay people should not be allowed to get married because they’re too promiscuous. Other speakers include Bill Duncan, director of the Marriage Law Foundation, which opposes marriage equality; Thomas Peters of NOM, who supports ex-gay therapy and has compared homosexuality to alcoholism; and Ruth Institute President Jennifer Roback Morse, who has said of marriage equality that “there really isn’t any future in sodomy” and has claimed that marriage equality will allow mentally unstable people, drug addicts, and people who aren’t really sure they’re gay to get married.