Mark Regnerus is a sociologist at the University of Texas at Austin who spoke at the Southern Baptist Convention's Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission sexuality conference on April 22, 2014. Photo courtesy of Kent Harville, ERLC

Mark Regnerus is a sociologist at the University of Texas at Austin who spoke at the Southern Baptist Convention’s Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission sexuality conference on April 22, 2014. Photo courtesy of Kent Harville, ERLC


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NASHVILLE, Tenn. (RNS) Controversial sociologist Mark Regnerus presented new research on marriage and sex at a conference of Southern Baptists on Tuesday (April 22), suggesting that religion and sex are tracking more closely than ever before.

In his first new research since his controversial study on same-sex parenting about two years ago, the sociology professor at the University of Texas at Austin presented findings from an unpublished study on marriage and sexual behavior to the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission conference on sexuality. The study suggests there’s a correspondence between what people’s religious affiliations proscribe regarding sex and marriage and their behavior.

In his former study, Regnerus, a Catholic who was raised as a Dutch Calvinist, argued that young adults with a parent who had had a same-sex relationship fared worse than those raised by biological parents without histories of same-sex relationships. He addressed criticisms in a follow-up paper in 2012, but he continues to stand by his study.

“The study hasn’t been retracted,” Regenerus said in an interview. “I can’t imagine it being retracted, because it’s not false and no errors were discovered. Maybe there could’ve been a sensitivity to language. But I stand by what I said.”

The state of Utah recently filed a letter distancing itself from the study in defending its statewide ban on same-sex marriage. The state cited a recent federal district court decision dismissing Regnerus’ views as ”not worthy of serious consideration.”

In his new study, Regnerus conducted a survey of 5,738 people ages 18 to 39, asking them about behavior from porn use and masturbation to marriage and views on social issues. “Religion and sex are tracking each other like never before,” he said in an interview. While the research included those of other faiths, Regnerus’ presentation to Baptists focused mostly on Christians. 

About 50 percent of younger evangelicals had premarital sex with their spouse, compared to 10 percent of Mormons, his study suggests. Mormons are the least likely religious group to be in a sexually inactive marriage, the research suggests.
He declined to provide his report to reporters saying his research is scheduled to be released in September. His presentation offered at least three possible takeaways:

1. The percent of younger people who are unmarried is going up each year.

Since 2000, the rate of those who are married and between 25 and 35 years old has been going down while the rate of those who have never been married is going up by about 1 percentage point each year. Those who were married used to be a higher percentage than people who were unmarried, but the trend began to reverse around 2008.

“By 2020, this is full-scale disaster for the church and society,” Regnerus said in an interview. “Marriage is foundational for civil society. We don’t have to have everybody married. But if you can’t solve problems in the household, there’s a lot more community dependence.”

2. Men are in the driver’s seat in the marriage market.

Women tend to be more interested in marriage, giving men the upper hand to choose if they want to “settle.”

“I don’t think men are afraid of commitment at all,” Regnerus said in his presentation. “They’re in the driver’s seat in the marriage corner of the market.”

Women are generally more interested in commitments and are more concerned about numerous partners than men. Women’s need for an economically stable husband has decreased, but they still want a marriageable partner, he said.

“The question is whether marriage is shrinking with the need,” he said.

3. Younger women have more fluid sexual identities than men.

Men say they are heterosexual at a much more consistent rate than women. For instance, women in their 20s are significantly less likely to say they are definitely heterosexual.

Regnerus said that the marriage of Mayor Bill de Blasio, who is married to a former lesbian, illustrates how women are more likely to consider themselves to be heterosexual later in life. On the other hand, men remain more consistent over time, settling earlier on whether or not they are definitely heterosexual.

He also found that same-sex couples have more partners. When he asked, “Have you or your partner ‘had any other sexual partners’ since the relationship began?” 28 percent of cohabiting opposite-sex respondents said yes, compared to 37 percent of cohabiting same-sex respondents.
Despite the earlier controversy, he hopes that in time people come to appreciate his research.

“After all this political hoo-ha is done and gone, we’ll finally be able to settle down and people can talk about the same data with cooler heads,” he said.

YS/AMB END BAILEY

16 Comments

  1. How do they define “evangelical”? With divorce, it really matter. No different from general culture if define it by self-identification. Very different from general culture if tie it to something doctrinal or weekly church attendance. Is something like that going on here too, or is this already factoring that in?

  2. So who will publish this bit of sophistry? Will it be peer reviewed? Why a September publication and who funded this one? I am frankly astonished that this guy can find ten cents worth of grants – unless there is an agenda to be fulfilled.

    I admit that Regnerus is an easy target. Part of what he says is true. The problem with his prior study is that they keep trotting it out to support marriage discrimination when it is entirely irrelevant to the issue. Kids raised by couples in heterosexual marriage where one spouse cheats on the other with a same-sex paramour AND where the child is aware of the off-campus relationship come from dysfunctional families. It never had anything to do with gay parenting in spite of what Witherspoon/NOM/the bishops were trying to claim.

    • There’s a pretty simple explanation for his funding – his dirty work for Witherspoon resulted in a huge benefit – an “attaboy” to thank him for bending his ethics so obligingly. They established an “Institute” in Austin, called the Austin Insti­tute for the Study of Family and Culture. Of course, the only ‘study’ is those flaky pseudo-science religious tracts he puts out at an alarming rate – like the cartoon that says that men hold the economic driver of marriage decision making or that men who watch porn are more likely to approve of Marriage Equality, or another recent one in which he claims that Marriage Equality will lead to a whole generation of men who demand anal sex from their wives!

      One look at him, and you can understand why he hates sex so much. Can he still be a virgin at his age?

      Here’s a link to an Austin Chronicle article with all the particulars:

      http://www.austinchronicle.com/daily/news/2014-03-03/austins-new-no-sex-institute/

  3. The Great God Pan

    “I can’t imagine it being retracted, because it’s not false and no errors were discovered.”

    Wasn’t that the study that counted a person as having been raised by a same-sex couple if, for instance, the person’s mother started a relationship with another woman when the person was 17 or 18? I’d call that an error.

    • His studied counted anyone whose parent ever dated anyone of the same sex for any amount of time, regardless of whether that same-sex dating partner actually helped raise the child.

      By that standard, anti-gay / anti-gay parenting / anti-gay adoption activist Robert Osar Lopez fails to meet the good parent standard.

    • That he labelled his respondents’ parents as “Lesbian mothers” and/or “Gay fathers” even though he had no knowledge of whether they were that, should be counted as data falsification. Think of any other deliberate mislabeling that a researcher might have done. Calling them “Asian American” parents, for example, or “Down’s Syndrome” parents, without knowing that they were that (and with an intent to do harm to people in those falsified categories). What Regnerus did, is data falsification. Additionally, a huge “error” was “discovered” in his paper.

      Regnerus wrote that his (anti-gay-rights) funders were in no way involved in his study design, data analyses, et cetera. As I documented beyond all doubt, that is a lie. A deliberate lie, which Regnerus told in order to mislead the public to believe that he carried out his “research” independently of his funders’ political goals for it.

      Certainly, a lie counts as an error.

    • It’s funny that Regnerus doesn’t examine the harms done by repression of sexual desires, and associated phenomena. Divorce, for example hardly is a negative where a man has been torturing a woman in increasingly severe cycles of domestic violence. Also, what about the correlation between regular church goers, and non-acceptance of basic science, including but not limited to evolution, and vaccination? Empirically we know that the more religious people are, the more likely they are to reject science — and to reject it aggressively. A recent New York Times article reported that the U.S. middle class now is poorer than many of its middle class counterparts in overall less religious countries. Moreover, the junk science that Regnerus promulgates is extremely harmful because it makes a mockery of genuine scientific endeavors. If people followed Regnerus’s notions, which include gay bashing, placing religious above actual science et cetera the results doubtless would leave the United States even further behind other developed nations. Then there’s the element of hypocrisy in these tight-lipped narrow-minded gay bashing sex rejecters and scorners. Do I even have to explain to the intelligent reader the characteristics of that hypocrisy?

  4. StraightGrandmother

    The WITHERSPOON INSTITUTE is Funding Regnerus.
    Anything Regnerus puts out is suspect.
    Dr. Michael Rosenfeld (Stanford University)
    —Brown BS Mathematics
    —University of Chicago MS Latin American Studies
    —University of Chicago PhD Sociology
    —Appointed to Stanford same year he got his PhD.
    Dr. Rosenfeld downloaded the Gay Parenting data and Testified in the Michigan Gay Marriage Trial that once you account for family transitions (divorce, moving in with dad, moving back with mom) the kids look exactly the same, NO DIFFERENCE.
    It is NOT the Sexual Orientation of the Parents that matter, it is providing a good loving stable loving home.
    Even Regnerus on Cross Examination AGREED with Rosenfeld. Do NOT be suckered in by Regnerus mis-represnting and comparing apples to oranges. Comparing apples to apples and oranges to oranges straight/gay parenting NO DIFFERENCE!

    Notably absent from his presentation to the Baptists is the stability of MARRIED Gay Couples. Gee wonder why he didn’t comment on that, huh? It is NOT what he says, but what he *doesn’t say* that is enlightening.

    Thankfully the United States Constitution is not based on Religion but rather Human Rights. It does not matter what one religion or another thinks about sexual minorities, the Government under the US Constitution will NOT give their beliefs privilege.

    So the Baptists are gong to convene in October and have an ENTIRE conference on Homosexuality, big whoop, who cares what they think. What matters is not what Baptists or Catholics or Mormons think, what matters is Equal Civil Rights under the United States Constitution.

  5. Regnerus testified about his “New Family Structures Study” in the federal trial that resulted in the revocation of the Michigan Anti-gay Hate Vote. U.S. District Judge Bernard Friedman, a Reagan appointee, criticized the testimony from Regnerus during the trial, saying the court finds his study “entirely unbelievable and not worthy of serious consideration.” The judge added, “The evidence adduced at trial demonstrated that his 2012 ‘study’ was hastily concocted at the behest of a third-party funder, which found it ‘essential that the necessary data be gathered to settle the question in the forum of public debate about what kinds of family arrangement are best for society’ and which ‘was confident that the traditional understanding of marriage will be vindicated by this study.’”

    “Whatever Regnerus may have found in this ‘study,’ he certainly cannot purport to have undertaken a scholarly research effort to compare the outcomes of children raised by same-sex couples with those of children raised by heterosexual couples,” Friedman wrote. “It is no wonder that the NFSS has been widely and severely criticized by other scholars, and that Regnerus’s own sociology department at the University of Texas has distanced itself from the NFSS in particular and Dr. Regnerus’s views in general and reaffirmed the aforementioned APA position statement.”

    U.S. District Judge Bernard Friedman, a Reagan appointee, found Mark Regnerus’ (author of a widely-discredited study on the supposed effects on children of same-sex parents) “entirely unbelievable”:
    The Court finds Regnerus’s testimony entirely unbelievable and not worthy of serious consideration. The evidence adduced at trial demonstrated that his 2012 “study” was hastily concocted at the behest of a third-party funder, which found it “essential that the necessary data be gathered to settle the question in the forum of public debate about what kinds of family arrangement are best for society” and which “was confident that the traditional understanding of marriage will be vindicated by this study.” See Pls.’ Motion in limine to Exclude Testimony of Mark Regnerus, Ex. 9. In the funder’s view, “the future of the institution of marriage at this moment is very uncertain” and “proper research” was needed to counter the many studies showing no differences in child outcomes. Id. The funder also stated that “this is a project where time is of the essence.” Id.

    He agreed Regnerus’ study is flawed:

    Additionally, the NFSS is flawed on its face, as it purported to study “a large, random sample of American young adults (ages 18-39) who were raised indifferent types of family arrangements” (emphasis added), but in fact it did not study this at all, as Regnerus equated being raised by a same-sex couple with having ever lived with a parent who had a “romantic relationship with someone of the same sex” for any length of time. Whatever Regnerus may have found in this “study,” he certainly cannot purport to have undertaken a scholarly research effort to compare the outcomes of children raised by same-sex couples with those of children raised by heterosexual couples. It is no wonder that the NFSS has been widely and severely criticized by other scholars, and that Regnerus’s own sociology department at the University of Texas has distanced itself from the NFSS in particular and Dr. Regnerus’s views in general and reaffirmed the aforementioned APA position statement.

    http://equalityontrial.com/2014/03/21/breaking-michigan-marriage-equality-ban-ruled-unconstitutional/

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