NOM Launches New Anti-Same-Sex-Parenting Propaganda Inspired By Sketchy Study

Much to no one’s surprise, it has taken only 24-48 hours for anti-gay organizations to (incorrectly) interpret the findings of Mark Regnerus’s new study on gay and lesbian parenting to mean that lesbian parents are definitively worse ones. The National Organization for Marriage has gone so far as to create a wildly misleading infographic based on their perception of the results!

Of course, what the sentence introducing that graphic leaves out is that it’s not really “lesbian parents” whose children are under discussion, but “parents whose children are aware that they had same-sex contact at some point while raising them.” Which is a horse of a distinctively different color. They also claim that “most of the children studied spent only a few years with their same-sex parents, which makes it likely that their family arrangement changed more than once and, thus, that their childhood was unstable.” Essentially, every statement NOM makes is directly contradicted if one actually reads the study in question; as Amy Davidson’s piece in the NYTpoints out, “most of the adults that the study considered products of gay or lesbian parents were not, for the most part, raised by gays or lesbians.” Most of these children were raised in heterosexual households in which a parent had some same-sex contact, which is very different from what NOM is claiming here. While this is fairly evident to anyone with access to Regnerus’s work, most people whom this “information” is meant to reach won’t see the study, and many of those people aren’t necessarily aware that NOM isn’t a reliable source of information about parenting and families, gay or straight. It’s a more reliable source of information about “not the effect of gay parenting, but of non-, or absentee parenting,” as Davidson says.

While Regnerus does explain the way in which his data collection worked within his study, and makes several statements about how his study shouldn’t be used to inform sweeping statements about policy or legality when it comes to same-sex families, his conclusions also lend themselves to some easy soundbites that play into a lot of already-existing fears about gay parents, which is frustrating. Regnerus seems like he may be surprised at the firestorm his study is inciting.

Talking to BuzzFeed, he said that he’s “not terribly politically oriented,” and said that his work gets attention because it’s based on “interesting research questions that tend to have wide public interest.” When asked about his reaction to the proclamations made by NOM and the Christian Family Research Council about his research, Regnerus said only “I don’t press political answers on anybody.” It seems that Regnerus is, willfully or no, perhaps not entirely cognizant of the social ramifications of his research — or at least, what his research can be misframed to mean. Regnerus also said “I’m not the sort of person that obsesses about peer perceptions of me. How adolescent that would be,” wholly ignoring the question of what perception of America’s gay and lesbian families will be.

He’s also come under fire from critics for the fact that much of Regnerus’s study’s massive amounts of funding came from the Witherspoon Institute, which is reputed to have ties with organizations like NOM and the Family Research Council. As Box Turtle Bulletin pointed out on Sunday, this isn’t quite as damning as it might appear; as they said, “the source of funding can indicate a potential conflict of interest, but the true value of a study rests on the methodology… If the methodology is sound, then the study’s conclusions are sound regardless of where the money comes from or who’s doing it.” But the fact that some of Regnerus’s previous work has been on “hookup culture” and age of marriage (and has been cited by Focus on the Family as evidence calling for early marriage) (and some believe Regnerus has a personal religious agenda) (and also clearly has strong personal feelings about the institution of marriage) raises some eyebrows. Of course, none of these reservations will ever reach most of the people who will see the sensational headlines that will result from this study. Which would, again, be fairly easy to disabuse a reader of if they read the study. But the easiest parts of the study to quote and digest are the ones that seem like they’re disparaging the parenting abilities of gays and lesbians, while the parts which explain what the data actually means are buried deep within the text.

These reactions from NOM and other organization are not, again, surprising. And the way in which the gay community will have to respond to these misinformed attacks isn’t new, either — we’ll have to know more about this study and the facts it’s based on than anyone else, and be scholars of our own experience so that we can call out those who try to speak ill of us and our families. Which isn’t a fun position to be in. But the reason that NOM and other organizations are reaching to twist the facts like this is because they have no real facts on their side, and they know it. And it won’t be long until everyone else does, too.

Rachel is Autostraddle's Managing Editor and the editor who presides over news & politics coverage. Originally from Boston, MA, Rachel now lives in the Midwest. Topics dear to her heart include bisexuality, The X-Files and tacos. Her favorite Ciara video is probably "Ride," but if you're only going to watch one, she recommends "Like A Boy." You can follow her on twitter and instagram.

Rachel has written 1095 articles for us.

13 Comments

  1. They didn’t have to reach because Regnerus is a quack who did it for them and made his feelings quite clear in his article on Slate:
    “It may suggest that the household instability that the [study] reveals is just too common among same-sex couples to take the social gamble of spending significant political and economic capital to esteem and support this new (but tiny) family form while Americans continue to flee the stable, two-parent biological married model, the far more common and accomplished workhorse of the American household, and still — according to the data, at least — the safest place for a kid.”
    http://www.slate.com/articles/double_x/doublex/2012/06/gay_parents_are_they_really_no_different_.single.html#pagebreak_anchor_2
    Regnerus is entirely cognizant, actually and is a well-known prop for the right. Previous studies and papers of his have argued that “hook-up culture” devalues marriage and have decried the tragic decline of the nuclear (straight) family. Please, please, let’s stop lending this man legitimacy.

  2. Regnerus is now admitting errors

    Regnerus was upfront about the funding from conservative groups, and said he pledged to groups involved that he would report whatever the data found, regardless of which way it leaned. What’s more, he says some of the criticisms are valid and plausible.

    “There are some valid criticisms that are being made, such as the measurement decision on who should be called a lesbian mother in this study,” Regnerus said. “People might say that’s irresponsible to do this study without all these stable lesbian couples in the study,” he said, adding the random sampling only found two out of the 175 children who said they lived in a home with both same-sex parents throughout all 18 years. “I would have been happy to compare them but they did not exist in large enough numbers.”

    Regnerus said it’s entirely possible that instability in the household led to some of the reported negative outcomes in adult children of same-sex parents. He said children of heterosexual couples in an unstable home were also found to fare worse than those in a stable environment.

    “People gay or straight should stick with their partners, he said. “I think the study provides evidence of that.”

    http://www.cbsnews.com/8301-504763_162-57451777-10391704/kids-of-gay-parents-fare-worse-study-finds-but-draws-fire-from-experts/

  3. I had a friend growing up in high school which was raised by same sex mothers and nothing was abnormal about the way she grew up other then she was raised by two women. Unlike my sister and I who were raised by a mother and father my sister was sexually assaulted by some one in the family. Now sexually assault and welfare disentangle just affect the same welfare. I think this odme the problems can equal out on both sides rather its same sex or not its all about the people who love u and care for u same sex relationship are not made up of a bunch of ignorant people straight people can be ignorant too about parenting lets stop the discrimination and Lisbeans and gays just want to live life as everyone else were not bothering nor are we hurting anyone.

  4. I want to hate on NOM as much as anybody else here, but I also think two other things need to be called to attention. 1) Autostraddles article from yesterday that fully examined the study at hand (bravo!) and 2) the HRC jumped on this as much as NOM did, and not in nearly as constructive of a manner as Autostraddle did. I got an email from them saying “Flawed Paper Ignores 30 Years of Credible Research Showing Gays and Lesbians Are Good Parents,” all of which is true. But the accompanying article basically says the study shows Lesbians are bad parents, but that the study was unsound. A deeper consideration of the study shows that it doesnt really say Lesbians are bad parents; it says (pretty upfrontedly actually) that very few stable lesbian relationships were considered. Which leads me to my point: maybe if the HRC had fully considered the study and written a deeper article showing the flaws and intricacies of the study, instead of saying it incorrectly showed that Lesbians were unfit, MAYBE NOM would have less amo.

    –> Both the HRC and NOM have terrible track records with scientific studies. They generalize them and then ping-pong over if the study is flawed or not. Why can’t we (HRC) take the higher road and actually fully examine the study and start a real discussion over it instead of just playing right into NOM’s hands??

  5. i’m really fucking exhausted right now, so i’m not sure i can even make any sense of what the hell is happening, but i really don’t get the point of this study. is this about heterosexual parents having same sex contact and the impact of their children’s knowledge of that contact? it seems like a very bizarre and convoluted paradigm, and one that is open to a shit tonne of confounding variables. on top of which, who fucking cares? god i hate people sometimes.

  6. It’s very interesting that the two categories of parents are listed as “married parents” or “lesbian mothers”, which means basically “married” against “unmarried”. Some of the differences they’re showing there, even if they were to be taken at face value, would seem to say that perhaps it’s society’s fault for not extending marriage rights to all loving couples, regardless of sex. Because a lot of those economic or economic-related issues are directly related to the benefits etc of being legally, in-the-eyes-of-the-gov’t-and-everyone-else married.

    Maybe they should fix that.

  7. So let me see if I understand this: People who grow up in unstable family situations are more likely to have difficulties and problems than people who grow up in stable, supportive family situations. Did we really need to fund a study to reach this conclusion?

  8. Dear NOM,
    I just can’t take you seriously, what with your organization’s abbreviated name being NOM. Are you a self-righteous, bigoted hate group? Or a happy little furry hamster, nibbling on a piece of corn?

    Regards,
    Maul E. Pain

    P.S. NOM NOM NOM NOM NOM NOM NOM NOM NOM NOM

  9. Is any research study undertaken actually objective these days? It seems as though researchers start with what they want to prove, based on their own subjective beliefs (and prejudices), and then seek to find data to support those beliefs – regardless of whether it is to the detriment of an entire demographic. Makes me feel sick to be honest – are there no research standards researchers need to adhere to prior to publishing their bogus work?

    http://www.twitter.com/myaltfamily
    http://www.facebook.com/mafsite

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