Yet again we see a religious-right group promote misleading “science” and a social agenda while pretending to practice law — but this time a federal judge is having none of it.
Last fall Texas Values, the lobby arm of Plano-based Liberty Institute, sought permission from a federal district judge in San Antonio to file an amicus brief opposing a lawsuit against the state constitutional ban on same-sex marriage in Texas. On Monday federal Judge Orlando Garcia smacked down the motion from Texas Values in the DeLeon etal v. Perry case. It seems clear that the judge thought the rabidly anti-gay group was wasting his time. From Judge Garcia’s order:
“Far from providing legal arguments, the Court finds that Movant attempts to present ‘social science’ which will not be ‘useful’ for the Court in making a legal determination of the constitutional issues raised in this case. … The Court finds the interests of the public, raised by Movant, are adequately represented by the parties in the case, and granting amici status to Movant would do nothing to aid this Court’s evaluation of the legal issues in the underlying action.”
Indeed, rather than making a reasoned legal argument, the Texas Values brief promotes the standard religious-right talking points about LGBT families. The brief argues that the American Psychological Association and decades of research are wrong in pointing out that children of same-sex parents fare just as well as children of heterosexual parents.
Never mind, of course, that the DeLeon case is about equal treatment of same-sex couples under the law, not raising children. After all, many opposite-sex couples marry with no intention (or perhaps even the ability) to have children. But the Texas Values brief also relies on largely discredited “research” to make its argument about children of same-sex parents.
For example, the brief’s list of “authorities” includes the notorious and discredited “study” from University of Texas sociology professor Mark Regnerus, “How Different Are the Adult Children of Parents Who Have Same-Sex Relationships? Findings from the New Family Structures Study.” Published by the journal Social Science Research in July 2012, the Regnerus “study” claimed that children of LGBT parents are more likely than children of heterosexual parents to suffer from depression and use drugs and engage in other other self-destructive behaviors.
Regnerus’s claims ran counter to decades of other research. Not surprisingly, anti-gay groups (like Texas Values/Liberty Institute) have used the “study” to bash LGBT families. But scholars and others have pointed to serious flaws in Regnerus’s work. Moreover, as the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) points out, the editor of the Social Science Research appointed a sociology professor at Southern Illinois University to audit the process that led to publishing the Regnerus article. The audit by Prof. Darren Sherkat was scathing, finding that the “study” was deeply methodologically flawed and that a peer-review process had failed to identify significant problems.
In an interview published by SPLC, Sherkat said the decision to publish Regnerus’s study was “flabbergasting” and called the study’s key measure of gay and lesbian parenting a “farce.” Sherkat identifies numerous problems with the study and notes that Regnerus has been “disgraced.”
He also discusses how religious fundamentalists are using the culture wars to corrupt science:
“It’s a real coordinated effort to create a kind of separate culture, to change contemporary culture in broader society. What’s different now is that they are beginning to move into the world, as they call it, and they are adamant about having an impact in the public square. That’s a real change for some of those groups. And they’re enabled in that in a lot of different ways, with the deregulation of education and their ability to create their own educational institutions, to provide home-schooling and all kinds of other alternative educational institutions.”
In this case, Texas Values wanted to use corrupt “science” to influence the courts in defense of discriminatory public policies that treat LGBT Texans as second-class citizens (or worse). But at least one federal judge just told them: “Not in my court.”