Controversial American Scientist Guides Lithuanian MPs On Traditional Family

“The marriage of biological parents is the best and the cheapest way to ensure children’s safety and happiness”. This message came from the controversial scientist Mark Regnerus at an event that took place in the Parliament of the Republic of Lithuania on 26 April, 2017. The sociologist, from whom the majority of academic colleagues have distanced themselves, had conducted a study which does not meet the scientific requirements, and which supposedly proved that “children of same-sex families faced higher social risks, compared to those from traditional families”. When considering legislation on the family-related issues, this research is going to be taken into account by Lithuanian MPs.

The event at the Parliament, a scientific conference on the “Institution of the Family in Lithuania: Sociological and Legal Aspects”, was organised by the Lithuanian NGO “Free Society Institute”. The event, at which the controversial scientist participated, also included the conservative MPs Algirdas Sysas, Rima Baškienė, Rimantas Jonas Dagys and Algirdas Dumbrava.  The NGO is also preparing to organize a discussion about the regulation of family life in Lithuania.

“There is a rush to say that a child growing up in a same-sex marriage develops in the same way as a child in an opposite-sex marriage.  It is said that there is no difference between a child growing up in a same-sex family and an opposite-sex family, but it is more than scientific and political issue “, the American scientist stated at the Lithuanian Parliament, saying that there is “not yet enough scientific data to assess the child’s welfare level of different-sex and same-sex parent families.”

The US sociologist Dr. M. Regnerus, whose research focuses on family life and religion, presented his study, which compared children who grew up in same-sex families with children who grew up in traditional families. The work by the sociologist from the University of Texas appeared in 2012 in the journal “Social Science Research”. The study by the professor in sociology, which had about 3,000 respondents, including children from both traditional and same-sex families, found in its conclusions that “with same-sex parents children lived worse”: “they were more likely to became unemployed, otherwise socially disadvantaged, and achieved lower levels of education. Children from same-sex families themselves were more prone to depression, felt less safe, more likely to identify themselves as homosexual, had addictions, or were sliding into criminal activities,” claimed the scientist in his study.

However, the academic community of sociologists criticized the study for a number of issues and the lack of logic. For example, they drew attention to the fact that in the study of 3,000 individuals only two respondents grew up in a same-sex family from birth. The remaining children lived with same-sex parents only episodically. It further criticized the fact that in the study only a small percentage of children from “traditional families” were living with foster parents, whereas almost 100 percent of children in same-sex families were living with foster parents.

Furthermore, the ethics of the scientific work were criticized. Mr. Regnerus’ work was scientifically reviewed by his own research partners. In total, more than 200 authoritative sociologists from the academic community turned to the journal’s Editorial Office, demanding an independent audit. The audit discovered that the work was based on questionable methodologies, and that the scientific standpoint was not ethical. Later it was discovered that the magazine editor knew the sociologist very well, and that the overall study was supported by an organization known for its conservative approach to the family. Scientists have distanced themselves from Mr Regnerus’ study.

According to the sociologist invited by the Members of Parliament of the Republic of Lithuania, “there are only 25 studies that have examined children’s well-being in same-sex families”.  In some the “data are biased to some degree, for example the research samples do not reflect the whole American lesbian population raising children”. He cited one study, based on interviews with about 80 adult white children of lesbian couples, which showed that these grew up in prosperous, educated and politically active families.

“I have been discredited,” admitted M. Regnerus when talking about his research. He said that this happened because his study was “the first research that challenged the narrative that children of same-sex families develop equally well as  those from different-sex families”.

He said he wanted to see “what is best for the child”, and that his decisions were based on “social reality”, not related to financing by any specific group. According to the researcher, the findings in the study especially interested and contributed to the work of organizations recognizing the “Christian family model”. The sociologist said that his study “dealt with a group of people in very unstable relationships – the more so if they had same-sex partners”. “Studies show that same-sex families often fall apart,” assessed the scientist.

According to another scientist, a few years ago he conducted a study criticized by colleagues, which, according to him, “showed that 17 per cent of children in same-sex families had emotional problems, compared to only 7 per cent of children from traditional families”. These problems were explained by the fact that the child has to have “a father and mother.” According to M. Regnerus, it is “it is in the best interest of a child to have a biological father and a mother, living in a marriage”.

“The State should not be neutral in looking at the choices of families” explained the sociologist. “Marriage of the biological parents is the best and the cheapest tool to ensure children’s safety and happiness.“

He stressed that “love by mum and dad” is “undervalued by the world”.

The American Director of ADP International’s European Division Robert Clarke delivered a report on family law cases in the European Court of Human Rights. Speaking about civil unions, he said that the Human Rights Court can order the State to pay compensation, if such possibility is not ensured.

The Lithuanian MPs participating in the conference believed that the controversial scientist’s thoughts could become a “serious scientific foundation for decision-making on legislation relating to partnership or family life.”

Stasys Šedbaras, member of the Parliamentary group “For the Family” considered that the |family is the founding unit of society|, and that |all ways of life should be in line with the natural purpose of the family, i.e. to enrich the people, and to bring up children properly|. He recalled recently visiting Šilutė region and hearing the stories from citizens that almost all the parents in the district are not caring for their children very well. “Is this the result of the Soviet legacy, or the result of the fact that the family is often under attack?” – questioned the MP, who sees “other ways of life” as a threat to the traditional family model.

At the same time the Member of the Lithuanian Parliament Povilas Urbšys said that with a group of colleagues he had asked the Prosecutor General’s Office to provide data on cases of violence against children. They would like to find out whether a man and a woman living in a marriage bring up children in a safer environment. However, such data is not currently collected, but the politician is inclined to think that in “families with married parents levels of domestic violence against children is lower.”

“In the conference, which is presented as “scientific”, spoke Dr. Mark Regnerus, from whose study of children in same-sex families his own university and almost two hundred sociologists, psychologists and other areas of academics have distanced themselves. It is surprising that this “academic” figure was given access to the Lithuanian Parliament and the Conference. It is also equally surprising that organizations such as the “Free Society Institute” finds its way into the Parliament. This organization has been repeatedly criticized for neglecting standards of transparency. The Institute hides which foundations and companies support its activities. This is absolutely not acceptable and it seems strange, in a democratic country. So in this case we do not even know who exactly is paying for such “scientists” and “science” imported to Lithuania,” commented the Executive Director of the Lithuanian Centre for Human Rights Birutė Sabatauskaitė.

“It is very hard to comprehend the level of homophobia prevalent within the Lithuanian Parliament. We hope that the members of the Lithuanian Parliament will finally recognize the existence of same-sex families Lithuania and prevent similar discriminative initiatives,” commented Vladimir Simonko, the Executive Director of the National LGBT* Rights Association LGL.