The second witness called by the AG’s office was Mark Regnerus. He is an associate professor of sociology at the University of Texas, Austin. His duties include teaching Intro to Sociology, a graduate level course on how to write, and Sociology of Religion. He also has various administrative duties in the department. Sociology is the study of influences of social forces on human behavior, how people operate in social groups, and how social structures change or don’t change over time. His focus is on the sexual behaviors of adolescents and religion.
He has written 30-32 peer reviewed articles, and participated in 5-6 data collection studies. A couple of data studies he took a minor role, one he was more involved, and the final one he was a principal. The study is called the National Family Structure Study (NFSS), 2012. He is a Sr. Fellow for the Austin Institute for the Study of Family and Culture, and, he testified, since he was a founding member, it was fitting that he would take the role as Sr. Fellow. His duties include giving direction and suggestion to the researchers and providing “ideation”.
In the NFSS he stated that over 15,000 people were sampled. The participants were adults age 18-39 given a series of questions. Some of the questions centered around whether or not one or both of the participant’s parents ever had a romantic relationship with a person of the same sex. Those who answered yes were placed in one group. Those who answered no were either then asked if they were raised by their biological parents as a family unit from birth through adulthood (intact opposite sex family). Others were in a category of people raised by single mothers.
The AG moved to qualify Prof. Regnerus as an expert, and Plaintiffs’ attorney did not object.
On direct examination, he testified that his study is a population study that includes a much larger sample than convenience studies. It uses a probability based sampling as opposed to a non-probability based sampling. Because it is a population study, it measures a broader range of society, rather than a convenience study that targets a particular demographic of people to answer questions about that particular demographic. It is designed to measure the probability of the outcome being tested.
Prof. Regnerus readily admits that the group identified as those children with parents who had a same sex partner (originally identified in the study as lesbian mother and gay fathers, which Regnerus admits is a leap of logic in the labeling, and one he should not have made), were not self-identified, but rather identified by the adult children from the perspective of the child. He also stated that only two of the people in this group were raised by the same sex couple from birth through adulthood. He offered as a justification for comparing this group to the group where were raised to adulthood by their biological parents by saying that they were not comparable to the opposite sex parent families and more similar to the single parent families because of “reduced kinship” – having fewer biological connections between the parents and the child. He freely admits that disruption and transition in the household is a factor in how well children do, but states that disruption and transition is a regular part of same sex coupleship.
He states that a biological mother and father raising a child together to adulthood is “historically best for children”, and that anything other than that is reduced kinship and is a concession. Biological parents are less likely to abuse a child and are more likely to sacrifice for their child.
The Judge asked the witness what definition he was using for same sex relationship. He said that it was defined by the question asked of the adult children – did your mother/father ever have a romantic relationship with a member of the same sex. He added – during growing up years. The witness stated that they may not have been raised by the same sex couple and that there may have been a great deal of breaking up in the parent’s life.
AG resumed questioning: He stated that he began to be interested in this area of research and got several consultants on board in January 2011. “About ½ along” Witherspoon reached out as well as a conservative agency and offered $90k. Previously, Witherspoon had not funded social research before. The Chairperson for Witherspoon sent him an email and suggested that he should try to get the results of his study out before the Windsor and Perry cases were heard by the US Supreme Court. He, however, stated that he imposed his own deadlines and was not directed by Witherspoon as to the results of the study.
Prof. Regnerus called into question the study that found “no differences” between children raised from birth to adulthood by a same sex couple from those raised to adulthood by a mother and father. He stated that the finding that there is no difference in the outcome of the children is pre-mature, and that no probability can be ascribed based on the limited study. He also said that Mega-studies, the aggregate of several studies to show that that the results are similar in order to verify and bolster the findings is not enough to overcome the fact that they are convenience sample studies.
He testified that in the NFSS, there were 40 outcomes, and 24 of them showed that the group he labeled as having exposure to same sex parents, fared worse. He states he did not control for other factors such as transitions within the home structure. He states that the focus was not on the sexual orientation of the parent, but only on relationships. There was no question that identified children born as a result of assisted reproduction technology (ART), but he made assumptions that children being raised by a mother and father were not as a result of ART and that if the parent was a single mother, that there was likely a man involved at some time. He did not talk to the parents or get any further background.
He stated that there were two participants who were raised from birth through adulthood by a same sex couple. When asked how they were doing, he said – “On average they looked pretty good”.
He admitted to being highly criticized for his research methodology and reports of the data. He said that one critic complained that he did not control for instability in the parental relationship, and his response was “I understand his complaint, but that wasn’t the purpose of the article”. Prof. Regnerus stated that the reaction to the article was “Sever and Swift”. He was receiving complaints within a day. There were efforts to get the article retracted. 200 people complained to the editor. An audit was conducted. He had not heard of such a procedure before. He states that the editor doesn’t like him, and he gave the job of the audit to someone who has ranted about him for years. He doesn’t like Prof. Regnerus, and he doesn’t know why. The conclusion of the investigation was that the research was “deeply flawed” and “should not be published”. Article was not retracted. Then he was accused of misconduct. There was a scientific misconduct review of him. The review did not lead to an investigation, which would have been the next step, and seems to have resolved with the review team’s recommendation to the provost that the matter be dismissed.
He repeated that this research area is too new to make definitive conclusions. Too many unknowns. Social scientists are unable to document with any degree of certainty that no developmental harm is done to children growing up in households wherein parents or in (or have been in) same sex relationships. His opinion is that the state should privilege the definition of marriage to a man and a woman because it is the optimum child development atmosphere.
He stated that he is a member of the Roman Catholic Church, but does not see that as influencing his opinions or research. His belief about marriage is that it should remain between a man and a woman an intended to be permanent. It should be undertaken when young people expect to welcome children. There is an expectation of fidelity. And children flourish in that environment.
When asked if a population study showed that children of same sex parents showed positive outcomes, would that change his opinion? He said, some children fare just fine, but he is not going to revise his opinion about “no differences”.
Opinions: It’s possible that lesbians can raise children just fine, but not significant number to show it is probable – only possible. Most prudent thing to do is to wait before overhauling it on modest information. Ideal setting is a mother and a father raising a child to adulthood with no transitions. Attempting to simulate a family unit with reduced biological connections, that is a concession.
End of Direct Testimony
Tomorrow at 9am – Cross examination of Prof. Regnerus.