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Op-ed: Marriage studies are tangled web of deception

By Chris Wangsgard

First Published Mar 29 2014 01:01 am • Last Updated Mar 29 2014 01:01 am

"Oh, what a tangled web we weave, when first we practice to deceive."

— Sir Walter Scott

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In its appellate brief to the 10th Circuit in the same-sex marriage case (Kitchen v. Herbert), Utah claimed that " ... same-sex parenting arrangements are less effective than married biological mothers and fathers in producing positive outcomes in the lives of their children."

The sole authority Utah relied on to make this representation to the court was a study by a sociologist, Mark D. Regnerus: "How Different are the Adult Children of Parents Who Have Same Sex Relationships: Findings from the New Family Structures Study" (2012).

On March 21, the U.S. District Court in Michigan decided a same-sex marriage case like Utah’s pending case. In that case, Mr. Regnerus testified as a witness for the state of Michigan, claiming that his ‘New Family Structures" study, relied on by Utah in its 10th Circuit appeal, justified state constitutional provisions banning same-sex marriage.

Having heard Dr. Regnerus’ testimony about his "study," Judge Bernard Friedman ruled: "The court finds Regenerus’ testimony entirely unbelievable and not worthy of serious consideration."

Judge Friedman, having reviewed the history of the "study," ruled that it "... was hastily concocted at the behest of a third-party funder," which had declared in advanced that it "was confident that the traditional understanding of marriage will be vindicated by this study."

Judge Friedman’s ruling states: "While Regnerus maintained that the funding source did not affect his impartiality as a researcher, the court finds this testimony unbelievable. The funder clearly wanted a certain result, and Regenerus obliged."

The Regnerus’ "study" is the worst kind of junk science. Survey participants were asked whether either of their parents had ever been involved in a "romantic relationship" with a person of the same sex. Regnerus labeled the 248 participants who answered "yes" as children of same-sex relationships. Judge Friedman concluded this process had identified only offspring of failed heterosexual unions, thus proving nothing about same-sex parenting.


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Only two of the 15,000 survey respondents reported living with a same-sex couple for their entire childhood. Mr. Regnerus admitted he found these two individuals well adjusted.

In short, the Regnerus "study" compared the children of stable families and those of unstable families, but labeled the unstable families as same-sex families.

The facts regarding the Regnerus "study" have now been adjudicated. Judge Friedman performed his constitutionally assigned role. He heard the evidence, measured the credibility of the witnesses, and decided the facts. He recorded his findings and conclusions in a written decision.

Those wishing to label his decision "liberal judicial activism" will have to find a way to deal with the fact that Ronald Reagan appointed him to the federal bench.

On April 10, Utah’s attorneys will stand before the judges of the 10th Circuit in Denver. Those judges will have read Utah’s brief. They will know that Utah, through its Attorney General’s Office, has represented that same-sex parenting arrangements have been proven to be less effective than traditional marriages in producing positive outcomes in children’s lives. Those judges will almost certainly also have read the Michigan ruling.

Federal judges take truth seriously. Utah’s attempt to misrepresent junk science as fact will spoil the credibility of Utah’s case — as well it should.

Chris Wangsgard is a Utah attorney with more than 40 years of litigation experience.



Copyright 2014 The Salt Lake Tribune. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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