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Regnerus was approached to do anti-gay parenting study by Witherspoon Institute

Mark Regnerus

A new article about the anti-gay parenting study created by University of Texas Mark Regnerus gave some new details about how the study came to being.

And these details should lead to more questions.

First, a little background

Earlier this year, Regnerus published a study which claimed that children in same-sex households face several problems. Conservatives and the religious right quickly lauded this study. But many others pointed out errors in the study’s conclusion and methodology. In fact, over 200 professors and researchers signed a letter condemning it.

A chief complaint has been where Regnerus received his funding.  According to Wayne Besen of the group Truth Wins Out, the head of the study, Mark Regnerus, received a $695,000 grant from the Witherspoon Institute for the study

The Witherspoon Foundation is affiliated with Princeton professor Robert George. At the Witherspoon Foundation, he is a Herbert W. Vaughan Senior Fellow  George is also a founder and chairman emeritus of the National Organization for Marriage, an organization whose goal is to stop marriage equality.

Since Regnerus’s study was published, NOM and the Witherspoon Institute have been pushing it steadily.  According to the Huffington Post, Maggie Gallagher, the former president of NOM and other groups associated with the organization have been widely publicizing Regnerus’ work:

Gallagher has been especially active in promoting the study, writing three posts about it on the website of the conservative National Review.  She penned a column for the conservative Town Hall under the headline, “The Gay Murphy Brown Effect.”

Gallagher’s Culture War Victory Fund, which was incubated at the American Principles Project, a group founded by Robert George in 2009, promoted the same articles that NOM did on its blog.

Another NOM-connected group, the Love and Fidelity Network, also promoted the study.

The Love and Fidelity Network shares an office with the Witherspoon Institute. Gallagher and George, the founders of NOM, are on the Network’s advisory board. Luis Tellez, who founded the Witherspoon Institute with George, is also on the advisory board of the Love and Fidelity Network.

For its part, the Witherspoon Institute wrote a lengthy analysis of Regnerus’ study under the headline, “The Kids Aren’t All Right: New Family Structures and the ‘No Differences’ Claim.”

The Witherspoon Institute also launched a website featuring Regnerus’ data.

Regnerus has insisted that the study’s funders had nothing to do with its outcome.  But this is where the new information comes in from The Statesman newspaper in Texas.

According to an article that appeared on Thursday, Regnerus was approached to do the study by a member of the Witherspoon Institute.

This is noted at least two times in the article:

1. The Witherspoon Institute approached Regnerus, a sociologist, about doing a study on gay parenting and contributed about $700,000 to his project, according to Regnerus and Luis Tellez, president of the Princeton, N.J.-based institute. The Bradley Foundation, based in Milwaukee, supplied $90,000 for the work, according to Regnerus. The Bradley Foundation did not respond to requests for comment.

The grant — the largest the Witherspoon Institute has ever given for faculty research — came with no strings attached and no pressure for a particular outcome, Tellez says.

2. In the case of the Regnerus study, Witherspoon solicited Regnerus for the work, according to Tellez, the institute’s president. Tellez said he sought money to help pay for the study from liberal philanthropists as well as Witherspoon’s mostly socially conservative contributors. But no liberal individuals or groups gave money for the project, he said.

Regnerus, in an email to the Statesman, said, “the plan for the particular study that was carried out was generated by me, with the help of a variety of consultants.”

Tellez said he approached Regnerus for the study because he had met the scholar at events sponsored by Witherspoon and found him to be “a darn good scholar, a careful scholar, (and) easy to work with.”

Sorry but I have a hard time believing, in spite of the assurances, that the Witherspoon Institute, a conservative organization with a specific agenda, would approach someone to do a study and freely give what it calls “the largest grant given to faculty research” if it didn’t have expectations of what it would be receiving.

Certain questions need to be asked of the parties involved in the creation of this study – specifically why did the Witherspoon Institute want to create such a study and what did it hope to accomplish?

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Alvin McEwen

Alvin McEwen