This op-ed by William C. Duncan, director of Sutherland’s Center for Family and Society, was published March 29 in The Salt Lake Tribune.
What does “unbelievable” mean? To most of us, it means that something is clearly not true or at least is so implausible as to justify our rejecting it as an explanation.
In his ruling last week that the United States Constitution requires Michigan to change its legal definition of marriage to include same-sex couples, Judge Bernard Friedman vociferously attacked four social scientists. The state had relied on their work to cast doubt on the notion that social science establishes that there are no differences in outcomes for children raised by a married mother and father and those raised by same-sex couples, of whom only one could possibly be the child’s biological parent.
Judge Friedman dismissed all of the witnesses, two for no real reason and the other two because the judge found their research “unbelievable.” Why?
In the case of Mark Regnerus, a sociologist at the University of Texas, the judge points to four factors. One is that his study has limitations, which is true of all studies and which Dr. Regnerus freely admits. Another is that it was funded by a third party who hypothesized that it would demonstrate what anyone with a cursory knowledge of family studies would guess — that children are likely to benefit from being raised by a married mother and father.
Then, the judge said the study has critics(!) who didn’t like the study’s design but who have yet to follow the credible scientific path: produce their own research with different results. This criticism is particularly interesting. The judge and the critics fault the study for not comparing children raised for long periods by same-sex partners (the fact that so few could be found in the random sample is itself telling). But earlier in the opinion, the judge said the social scientific consensus was that “there is no discernible difference in parenting competence between lesbian and gay adults and their heterosexual counterparts.” So, the judge’s favored evidence has nothing to do with children’s outcomes when raised by any kind of family form, but he is bothered that Dr. Regnerus didn’t study that question.
At least Dr. Regnerus’ study was actually relevant to the case since it looked at the effect of family structure on children rather than at the parenting skills of individuals with varying sexual attractions.
So, apparently, “unbelievable” to Judge Friedman means that he has been told something he didn’t want to hear.