Today, a judge struck down Michigan's ban on marriage equality, which is a victory in itself. But Judge Bernard A. Friedman also completely ripped apart the testimony of one "expert" witness, Mark Regnerus. Regnerus' thoroughly flawed and discredited "parenting study" has not been able to pass courtroom muster.
The grooming of conservative experts appeared to be falling into place when Michigan called Regnerus and three other witnesses to describe research allegedly showing gay marriage and parenting harms kids. Regnerus testified that, based on his research, he believed “we aren’t anywhere near saying there's conclusive evidence” that children of gay parents fare as well as others, and that, “until we get more evidence, we should be skeptical” of any such claims. “The most prudent thing to do,” he concluded, “is wait and evaluate some of these changes over time before making any radical moves around marriage.”
But on cross-examination by the ACLU’s Leslie Cooper, Regnerus’ testimony quickly broke down. Cooper forced Regnerus to admit that he had sought to conceal the role of conservative funders and of his religious faith in influencing his research, both of which were later revealed with smoking gun evidence from his prior words. He acknowledged that he was “not a fan of same sex marriage” before he started his research and that his opposition to it was not primarily based on his research conclusions. And he had to concede that he had singled out gay couples in opposing their right to marry based on alleged family instability: Aware that African-Americans, the poor, step-families and divorced people are all at higher statistical risk of marital collapse and family instability, he nonetheless had no strong opinion on whether those folks should be banned from marrying—just gays, strongly suggesting his views are rooted in bias above all.
Judge Friedman didn’t fall for any of it. “The Court finds Regnerus’s testimony entirely unbelievable and not worthy of serious consideration,” he wrote in what must be one of the most stinging and decisive repudiations of an expert witness in memory. He cited evidence that the conservative research was “hastily concocted at the behest of a third-party funder” which clearly expressed its wish for skewed results. Dismissing the defense’s other witnesses just as strongly, the judge wrote that “The Court was unable to accord the testimony of Marks, Price, and Allen any significant weight.” He concluded that “The most that can be said of these witnesses’ testimony is that the ‘no differences’ consensus has not been proven with scientific certainty, not that there is any credible evidence showing that children raised by same-sex couples fare worse than those raised by heterosexual couples.”