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Discredited Regnerus Study Touted in Push for Russian Anti-Gay Law

One thing you can pretty much count on is the willingness of anti-gay propagandists to drag out every pseudoscientific and discredited study that alleges LGBT people are dangerous to children or others. That’s what’s happening in Russia.

Lawmaker Andrei Zhuravlyov introduced legislation today in the lower house of the Russian Duma that would deny gay and lesbian parents custody of their children. “Harm that could be inflicted on a child’s mental health in case of their parents’ homosexual contacts is immense,” Zhuravlyov asserted in a note attached to the legislation. To back this up, the bill cited the 2012 discredited study by University of Texas sociology professor Mark Regnerus as proof that gay parenting is dangerous to children. Zhuravlyov claimed in his note that the Regnerus study’s findings were corroborated by unspecified “independent experts.”


Regnerus himself has admitted that his study isn’t really about LGBT parents at all, and hundreds of sociologists have noted its poor methodology and suspect funding sources (from large, anti-gay think tanks). The American Sociological Association slammed the study in a March 2013 amicus brief to the Supreme Court. And, in a recent interview with the Southern Poverty Law Center’s Intelligence Report, Southern Illinois University sociology professor Darren Sherkat, who exhaustively investigated how the study was approved at the request of the peer-reviewed academic journal that published it, said that he “completely dismiss[ed] the study. It’s over. He [Regnerus] has been disgraced.”

But that hasn’t stopped anti-gay groups here and abroad from touting the study as “proof” that LGBT people are dangerous to children. Since its release, Regnerus has become a poster boy for the anti-gay right, and has attended and spoken at various anti-gay venues (see here and here) and even signed on to a little-noticed anti-gay amicus brief filed this past spring with the Supreme Court.

The proposed anti-gay parenting law comes on the heels of President Vladimir Putin’s June signing of two other anti-gay laws. One bans the adoption of Russian children by foreign LGBT parents and the other outlaws “homosexual propaganda.” Since the bills were signed, violence in Russia has increased against LGBT people and their supporters, sometimes backed by police, and some critics are calling for a boycott of the 2014 Winter Olympic Games near the Black Sea in Russia.

Anti-gay sentiment has exploded in Russia over the past few years, fed by economic woes, government corruption, and crumbling infrastructures. The spate of anti-gay laws and sentiment is part of a crackdown the Russian government is imposing on dissenters. As Russian human rights lawyer Sergei Davidis told the Christian Science Monitor, “the goal … is to focus public anger on gays, blasphemers, and foreign-inspired agitators, to create this feeling that Russia is a besieged state.” A lot of innocent people, Davidis added, “may suffer before it all unravels.”

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