UT Distances from Regnerus

Michigan marriage equality testimony at issue

Dr. Christine Williams
Dr. Christine Williams (by www.utexas.edu)

Mark Regnerus' triple lindy into the Michigan marriage equality debate may have made him the darling of the religious right, but that doesn't mean he's getting respect. As Regnerus advised a federal court to be "prudent" in granting gays and lesbians civil rights, his colleagues sought to distance themselves from his work.

You can almost feel his collar yanking.

Since the publication of his widely criticized "New Family Structures Study," the University of Texas sociologist has had quite a run chatting about homosexuals. In September 2013, he popped up at a United Nations "side event" run by the Alliance Defending Freedom – a legal flank of the anti-equality movement tasked with the international defense of laws that punish LGBT advocacy and criminalize gay sex. In February of this year, he told a Franciscan University crowd that same-sex marriage will give straight men "permission to stray." And in April, he will be appearing at a Southern Baptist Convention leadership summit that warns "from broken marriages to pornography to homosexuality, sexual confusion and sexual brokenness has ravaged our culture and can deteriorate the integrity of our churches."

Yesterday, his profile was raised even further when he gave state testimony in a federal lawsuit challenging Michigan's same-sex marriage ban. "Until we get more evidence, we should be skeptical," Regnerus advocated, maintaining that due to the lack of scientific research in the area of same-sex parenting, the state should uphold the status quo.

It's a very busy schedule for a researcher that was virtually unknown prior to his NFSS splash. And it may turn out to be fortuitous that he already has his bags packed. The University of Texas hasn't exactly been throwing him ticker tape parades.

First up to bat was the University of Texas College of Liberal Arts. In a brief statement posted Friday, the school threw some very polite shade at Regnerus' testimony. "Dr. Regnerus' opinions are his own. They do not reflect the views of the university. Like all faculty, he has the right to pursue his areas of research and express his point of view. We encourage the community of scholars and society as a whole to evaluate his claims."

In case that wasn't explicit enough, Christine L. Williams, the chair of the sociology department, drove the point home.

"Like all faculty, Dr. Regnerus has the right to pursue his areas of research and express his point of view.  However, Dr. Regnerus’ opinions are his own. They do not reflect the views of the Sociology Department of The University of Texas at Austin.  Nor do they reflect the views of the American Sociological Association, which takes the position that the conclusions he draws from his study of gay parenting are fundamentally flawed on conceptual and methodological grounds and that findings from Dr. Regnerus’ work have been cited inappropriately in efforts to diminish the civil rights and legitimacy of LBGTQ partners and their families.  We encourage society as a whole to evaluate his claims.

The Sociology Department at The University of Texas at Austin aspires to achieve academic excellence in research, teaching, and public service at the highest level in our discipline. We strive to do so in a context that is based on the highest ethical standards of our discipline and in a context that actively promotes and supports diversity among our faculty and student populations.

We believe that's what the village elders used to call a burn.

Regnerus is set to be cross-examined today, but he already appears to be on the defensive. Yesterday, he told the Detroit Free Press that the statements were "regrettable," claiming that he "heard from [his] colleagues that this was an appropriate thing to do."

Whether those colleagues were UT professors or the fellows at the Austin Institute for the Study of Family and Culture remains unsaid.

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