Judge Overturns Order to Disclose Documents Detailing Publication of Regnerus’ Junk Science

by HRC Staff

Thousands of secret anti-gay emails may not see the light of day

Washington – In a disappointing move, a Florida state court judge overturned an earlier ruling that the University of Central Florida (UCF) must turn over records related to the publication of a debunked 2012 study conducted by discredited anti-gay researcher Mark Regnerus that demonizes gay and lesbian parents. Today’s ruling comes after UCF appealed a November ruling.  Regnerus’ research, which continues to be cited in courtrooms by opponents of equality, has been called into legal question not merely for its results which have been scientifically shredded by years of credible research, but also because the study was underwritten by the Witherspoon Institute, an organization with a history of distinctly unscholarly anti-gay activity.  In a marriage equality case in Michigan, a court recently found Regnerus' testimony entirely unbelievable and not worthy of serious consideration.    

The 2012 New Family Structures Study raised red flags among family scholars for its results that suggest that children are less likely to thrive when raised by gay and lesbian parents than if raised by straight parents. The study is a clear outlier among 30 years’ worth of social science that suggest that children thrive equally well in two parent households, regardless of the genders of their parents. It was soon revealed that Regnerus’ study utterly failed to control for error. The study’s so-called “straight” households featured heterosexual parents in committed, long-term relationships, whereas the so-called “gay” households failed to feature same-sex couples in comparable relationships.

In November’s opinion, Orange County Circuit Judge Donald Grincewicz ruled that emails and documents possessed by University of Central Florida (UCF) related to the flawed study’s peer-review process must be turned over to LGBT activist John Becker, who sought the documents under Florida’s Public Records Act. UCF houses the journal Social Science Research, which published the Regnerus study, and the editor of the journal, UCF Professor James Wright, led the peer-review process for the research. Becker is represented by the Law Office of Andrea Flynn Mogensen, P.A., and Barrett, Chapman & Ruta, P.A; and the Human Rights Campaign funded the litigation.  UCF appealed that decision, arguing it was premature for Ninth Circuit Court Judge Donald Grincewicz to decide the whole case before a full trial.

“Today's decision unwisely places government secrecy and private corporate interests above the public's right to transparency and open government," said plaintiff John Becker.  “The public deserves to know the truth behind Regnerus's dangerous junk-science 'study,' and we will vigorously appeal today's ruling so that the truth can at last come out.”

“It would be one thing if the Regnerus study was merely junk science that sits on a shelf, but it is doing harm to our children and our families,” said Ellen Kahn, M.S.S, of the Human Rights Campaign.  “Because of today’s ruling, the dark cloud that has lingered over the sham study since 2012 will continue to mask hate and hide how this study was funded and conceived.”

Two hundred scholars as well as the American Sociological Association were quick to point out the study’s glaring flaws and biases. These problems also included conflicts of interest among individuals and organizations who were both funding and working on the study, as well as a questionable peer review process.  

Since its publication, the study has shown up time and time again in marriage equality and LGBT adoption debates both in the United States and internationally.

In France, for example, Regnerus’ research was cited by opponents of a marriage equality bill that was eventually signed into law. But Regnerus’ faulty research has been most damaging in Russia – where it has been used as evidence for archaic and damaging legislation that criminalized “homosexual propaganda” in the country and banned the adoption of Russian children by same-sex couples and individuals living in countries with marriage equality. It even was used to support proposed legislation that would allow the Russian state to remove children from an LGBT parent or someone assumed to be LGBT.

While Regnerus initially claimed that his study was not motivated by ideology, he later went on to testify against marriage equality in legislative hearings, and even cited his discredited research in amicus briefs filed in the marriage equality cases before the U.S. Supreme Court last summer.

Read the ruling here

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