An independent auditor has slammed a paper released earlier this year by anti-gay activist Mark Regnerus, which garnered some national attention by misleading many to conclude that it found children of gay and lesbian parents fare worse than children of straight parents. The paper appeared in the journal Social Science Research, which will also publish the results of an internal audit that found that that Regnerus's paper should never have been published in the first place. From Chronicle of Higher Education's Percolator blog:
Like Regnerus, the editor of Social Science Research, James D. Wright, has been at the receiving end of an outpouring of anger over the paper. At the suggestion of another scholar, Wright, a professor of sociology at the University of Central Florida, assigned a member of the journal’s editorial board—Darren E. Sherkat, a professor of sociology at Southern Illinois University at Carbondale—to examine how the paper was handled.
Sherkat was given access to all the reviews and correspondence connected with the paper, and was told the identities of the reviewers. According to Sherkat, Regnerus’s paper should never have been published. His assessment of it, in an interview, was concise: “It’s bullsh*t,” he said.
The biggest problem was the fact that Regnerus's paper included very few children of gay and lesbian parents who self-identified that way, and were in committed relationships, raising those children together. The vast majority of those who were identified as being gay and lesbian parents were those who had been in any same-sex relationship, no matter how long, even extra-maritally, at any point after having children.
Because of how the paper was written, Sherkat said, it would have been easy to miss Regnerus’s explanation of who qualified as “lesbian mothers” and “gay fathers.” If a reviewer were to skip ahead to the statistics in the table, it would be understandable, he said, to assume that the children described there were, in fact, raised by a gay or lesbian couple for a significant portion of their childhoods.
In reality, only two respondents lived with a lesbian couple for their entire childhoods, and most did not live with lesbian or gay parents for long periods, if at all.
As for anti-gay activists' claim that the study was peer-reviewed?
In his audit, he writes that the peer-review system failed because of “both ideology and inattention” on the part of the reviewers (three of the six reviewers, according to Sherkat, are on record as opposing same-sex marriage). What’s more, he writes that the reviewers were “not without some connection to Regnerus,” and suggests that those ties influenced their reviews.
Since the study has finally actually been reviewed by a third-party with no personal connection to the author, now is the time for the media to report on it – and how anti-gay activists have resorted to frankly just making stuff up.