As the nation debates whether to institutionalize same-sex marriage, social scientists have been weighing in -- often with a heavy hand. As Mark Regnerus, author of a new study examining outcomes for children in a variety of home environments, notes social science regarding gay and lesbian parenting has swung from "presents challenges," to "no difference" to "superior" in the space of one decade. The American Psychological Association declared flatly in 2005 that, "Not a single study has found children of lesbian or gay parents to be disadvantaged in any significant respect relative to children of heterosexual parents." That prompted skepticism from Regnerus and agreement to undertake a large study, funded by conservative-leaning foundations, to examine the evidence.
Regnerus's results, published in the journal Social Science Research, cast doubt on the "no difference" claim and have subjected Regnerus, a professor at the University of Texas, to personal vilification. His results have been denounced as "junk science" and "pseudo-scientific misinformation" by the leading gay advocacy groups, prompting even Will Saletan, a liberal writer for Slate, which published an explanatory piece by Regnerus about his results, to caution " ... before we all go get our stones, pitchforks, and kerosene ... trust science ... Yes, Regnerus is socially conservative. But he's reflective, open-minded, and reality-based."
The studies on children raised by homosexual parents that predated Regnerus's work suffered from a number of flaws. They tended to be examinations of "mostly white, well-educated, lesbian parents" living in metropolitan areas. They were often based on parental reports of childhood outcomes and were comprised of people who had been recruited at lesbian bookstores and other contact points -- skewing the sample in favor of those eager to make a point. Not all of the studies were marred by such flaws, but nearly all were small and thus lacked, in Regnerus's words, "enough statistical power to detect meaningful differences should they exist."