Anti-LGBT researcher who pushes harmful pseudoscience joins anti-LGBT hate group

In an email dated May 9, Jennifer Roback Morse, head of anti-LGBT hate group the Ruth Institute (RI), announced that Paul Sullins would be joining the organization “to continue his work and share his findings.”

Sullins, a married Catholic priest (he was formerly Episcopalian) who recently retired as professor of sociology at the Catholic University of America, is listed as a senior research associate in his bio on the RI’s website. The bio also notes that the Rev. D. Paul Sullins will continue in his role as research professor and director of the Leo Initiative for Social Research at Catholic University.

Sullins also serves as a board member for the Society of Catholic Social Scientists and anti-LGBT hate group Center for Family and Human Rights (C-Fam). Prior to that, he was with the Marriage and Religion Research Initiative, which was part of the anti-LGBT hate group Family Research Council but now is part of the Catholic University of America.

The RI bills Sullins as “a leader in the field of same-sex parenting and its implications for child development,” but fails to note that he is only a leader in the anti-LGBT echo chamber of pseudoscience that attempts to paint same-sex parents and parenting as dangerous to children, a harmful trope the anti-LGBT right has been pushing for years.

Over the past decade especially, a 2015 article in The Atlantic notes, as marriage equality became law first in several states and then finally throughout the country, a small number of scholars have been claiming that children of same-sex parents are exposed to more harms than children of opposite-sex parents, arguments that are then used to argue against same-sex marriage and adoption.

The strategy to concoct studies on family structure and children to combat LGBT equality seems to have originated in a series of meetings in 2010 hosted by the Heritage Foundation. Mark Regnerus, the author of the roundly discredited Regnerus Study, was in attendance, and would eventually receive $785,000 for his anti-LGBT project, the results of which were published in 2012.

Sullins continues this strategy in his own work, and has released several papers in the past few years that claim same-sex parents are bad for children, though his “research” – like other Christian Right pseudoscientific studies claiming similar things – commits a fatal error in which he conflates households headed by same-sex parents with households headed by unmarried parents or households characterized by disruption.

However, many, many more studies have reached opposite conclusions. Michael Rosenfeld, a professor of sociology at Stanford, told The Atlantic in an email, “Research…has developed a scholarly consensus that shows that children raised by same-sex couples are at no important disadvantage.” He went on to say, “There is a noisy fringe of academics who claim that children raised by same-sex couples are in disastrous peril,” a view that “has little or no credibility within academia.”

Sullins has been publishing his anti-LGBT research in pay-to-publish journals, meaning authors pay for their work to be included in for-profit journals that are generally not associated with any professional organizations.

The peer-review process in such journals raises questions, as sociologist Philip Cohen (University of Maryland) noted on his blog in 2015 in an examination of three articles that Sullins published. Cohen acknowledged that Sullins has in the past published in legitimate journals, but his work “now appears to have veered into the netherworld of scam open access journals (which, of course, does not include all open-access journals).”

One of those anti-LGBT papers Sullins published in is the British Journal of Education, Society & Behavioural Science, which Cohen notes may not be British but is published by Science Domain International (SDI), an outfit with a reputation for spam that existed as a UK company twice, but both registrations for it have been dissolved, according to a post on the website scientificspam.net. The post also noted that despite that, SDI continued to process personal data without registering with the Information Commissioner’s Office, a criminal act in the UK.

These scam journals are not published by academic societies, not indexed by major academic journal databases, and they publish thousands of papers with little or no peer review at the expense of authors. SDI charges authors $500 – the mandatory cost of one issue of the journal. They recruit authors, editors and reviewers through worldwide spam campaigns, Cohen points out, “that sweep up shady pseudo-scholars.”

In 2016, Sullins published another “study” that claimed children who have same-sex parents are more prone in adulthood to a litany of ills, including depression, obesity, abuse and parental distance and that same-sex parents “may be problematic or dangerous.”

The article appeared in Hindawi, a pay-to-publish Egyptian-based open-access journal, but after criticism about the article’s methodology, the journal posted an “Expression of Concern” on its website that stated, in part,

On behalf of Hindawi Limited, the publisher of Depression Research and Treatment, we would like to express our concern with the article titled “Invisible Victims: Delayed Onset Depression among Adults with Same-Sex Parents” published in Depression Research and Treatment in 2016…

The article has been cited to support arguments about same-sex marriage that Hindawi believes to be hateful and wrong. These arguments do not represent the views of Hindawi, our staff, or the editorial board of Depression Research and Treatment. We strongly condemn any attempt to justify hate speech or bigotry through reference to the scholarly record.

Regardless of Sullins’ problematic “studies,” he is still touted as an “expert” of same-sex parenting and its implications for children and his work finds regular audiences and validation on the anti-LGBT right, including the Ruth Institute.