The Outrageous Immorality of the Anti-gay Movement

I’m a dope, a patsy, a dupe. Or at least tragically naive: Somehow, it seems, I’m once again surprised by the unabashed dishonesty of our worst anti-gay opponents.

This time it’s Dr. Rick Fitzgibbons of NARTH, writing a long piece about same-sex adoption. It has a small section titled, “The children do suffer,” with this opening:

There are strong indications that children raised by same sex couples fare less well than children raised in stable homes with a mother and a father.

He brings up two studies to support this, one of them by Seton Hall professor Dr. Theodora Sirota, and then regretfully tells us:

Not surprisingly, there are scholars who oppose this weighty evidence.

I know something that might surprise Fitzgibbons:  One of those opposing scholars is — have you guessed? — Seton Hall professor Dr. Theodora Sirota, the source of his weighty evidence.

Actually, I take that back. Fitzgibbons won’t be surprised at all, because Sirota has already written to him, complaining that he has “mis-reported and misrepresented the results of my 2009 research in this blog.” Not surprisingly, Fitzgibbons has yet to correct his article.

I know this because Dr. Sirota (whom I’ve never met) contacted me herself yesterday, asking for help in exposing what he’s done.

You can read the full text of Sirota’s message here, but let me put it in a nutshell. To support his denunciation of same-sex adoption, Fitzgibbons offers this summary of Sirota’s research:

Researchers interviewed 68 women with gay or bisexual fathers and 68 women with heterosexual fathers. The women (average age 29 in both groups) with gay or bisexual fathers had difficulty with adult attachment issues in three areas: they were less comfortable with closeness and intimacy; they were less able to trust and depend on others; and they experienced more anxiety in relationships compared to the women raised by heterosexual fathers.

The problem is not with what Fitzgibbons said; it’s what he left out: The gay and bisexual fathers in Sirota’s study were married to the mothers.

Dr. Sirota’s article is about the impact of a homosexual father raising a girl in a heterosexual marriage. It has nothing to do with same-sex couples, nothing to do with same-sex adoption at all.

You’d never know that from Fitzgibbon’s piece, and that makes his piece a lie. This kind of sin-by-omission is nothing new; we’ve seen it from far more reputable scholars than this NARTHer. Here, though, we have the original researcher explaining why this is an abuse of her research and asking us for help.

Dr. Sirota’s explanation is crucial. Her data suggest the daughters’ issues were related not so much to their fathers’ sexuality, but to factors like “divorce, maternal anger/bitterness, father absence, etc.” In other words (my words, not Sirota’s), pretty much the results you’d expect when a gay man tries to follow the anti-gay advice of “choosing” to be “straight.”

That’s a provocative finding. In fact, it’s the opposite of what Fitzgibbons is trying to establish. Our opponents claim their concern is all about the kids, but how do they reconcile that with these other things they tell us:

  1. Bans on same-sex marriage don’t discriminate because gays can marry a member of the opposite sex, just like anyone else (recently heard from Michele Bachmann).
  2. The purpose of marriage is procreation.

And yet kids are hurt when gay men live by this philosophy. Given our opponents’ pure and unselfish regard for children, I eagerly await their loud and public reversal of what they’ve pushed on us for long.

So let’s do a quick recap:

  • Dr. Rick Fitzgibbons presents himself as a science-based mental-health professional.
  • He distorts another scholar’s work to advance his agenda.
  • This scholar points out the distortion.
  • Fitzgibbons fails to correct the distortion.

Two points present themselves, one minor and one major.

First (and this is the minor one), every time our opponents unrepentantly twist someone’s research, they admit they have no honest case. Always point this out — always.

More important, though, is the outrageous immorality of Fitzgibbon’s work. And there’s plenty of outrage for plenty of people: For Dr. Sirota, whose research has been abused. For same-sex parents, who’ve been libeled by that abuse. And, most of all, for Fitzgibbons’ own loyal readers, who are counting on him for the truth.

This is a moral issue, and it’s becoming clear we can better advance our cause on the grounds of morality rather than tolerance. When Ted Olson and David Boies made their case against Prop 8, they did so on a moral basis: Same-sex relationships have the same potential for moral value as opposite-sex pairings, and it is a moral wrong to deny us full citizenship and equality. In this effort, Fitzgibbons becomes our ally, a case study in the moral bankruptcy of our extreme opposition.

Dr. Sirota has asked us to help expose this corruption of her work, and it’s the easiest exposure possible, requiring nothing but a simple declaration of truth. Please help her, either by sharing this, or (even better) by using her words to craft a message of your own.

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16 comments to The Outrageous Immorality of the Anti-gay Movement

  • 1
    Another Matt says:

    Bans on same-sex marriage don’t discriminate because gays can marry a member of the opposite sex, just like anyone else (recently heard from Michele Bachmann).

    This argument surprisingly manages to get a lot of mileage. “We’d be giving The Gays special priviliges under the law if we had gay marriage. They can already marry anyone they want of the opposite sex – just like everyone else!”

    Of course, the corrolary is that with gay marriage in place “everyone else” could then marry an opposite- or same-sex partner if they chose. Everyone would still have the same rights under the law, because we would just have marriage. I’m not sure why that doesn’t occur to anyone I’ve heard making this stupid argument.

  • 2
    Thom Watson says:

    I’ve passed this info along to Marriage Equality USA’s followers on our Twitter and Facebook feeds.

  • 3

    Holy crap! Fitzgibbons responded to Dr. Sirota’s comment thusly:

    Thank you for your post, Dr. Sirota. I am hoping for your own sake that you will read my posts that directly bear on your work and consider withdrawing your charge of my misrepresentation of your work. Quite frankly, this looks quite bad for you because my text regarding that work was drawn directly from your abstract. I misrepresented nothing and yours is a false accusation, a serious charge in the world of academia. I am sorry that you are caught in the middle between same-sex advocates and what your findings actually say. Let me remind you of your findings, again drawn from your own abstract: Women with gay or bisexual fathers were significantly less comfortable with closeness and intimacy, less able to trust and depend on others, and experienced more anxiety in relationships than women with heterosexual fathers. Your wishing away these statements does not invalidate them in the least. Never once did I draw any direct conclusions from your study about adoption and those who have told you that have led you astray. They are obviously more concerned about their activist agenda than your reputation. They are more concerned with denigrating my reputation than standing in the truth of your data. And, your academic reputation, I should add, is at-risk now because of this false accusation. I am sorry for being so blunt. Those who have misled you about my statements should come forward with an apology to you and to me rather than hiding in the shadows.

    One more point. On page 295 you state the following *interpretation* of what you found: “Therefore, it is concluded that the attachment insecurity in study participants with gay or bisexual father is not related to fathers’ homosexuality or bisexuality per se but to relational processes occurring in heterosexually organized families where fathers identify as gay or bisexual.” You realize, of course, that you have a *confound* in your study. You cannot tell if the central cause of your findings is homosexuality per se or “heterosexually organized families where fathers identify as gay or bisexual.” Both of these variables occur simultaneously in the data and you had no way of separating them and studying them independently to safely draw the conclusion that you did. Do you truly intend to make this a *conclusion,* in which case you are making a scientific mistake (because of the confound) or are you willing to soften this and call it an *interpretation,* in which case you are on stronger scientific footing? The latter would be better for your reputation. And if you make this move, which is to your advantage, you might consider withdrawing your charges against me.

    So, not only does he refuse to admit his deception, he attacks the author of the study he misrepresents!

  • 4
    Matt in PDX says:

    Fitzgibbons’s reply to Dr. Sirota is pretty outrageous. The fact that the gay and bisexual men were married to women is clearly relevant to the case he’s making. His omission of that detail is a distortion, pure and simple, regardless of the merits of the original study.
    Also, if he considers her study flawed because of a confound, why did he cite it?
    What a bully.

  • 5
    Matt in PDX says:

    Also, Fitzgibbons begins the section in which he cites Sirota’s study with the words: “There are strong indications that children raised by same sex couples fare less well than children raised in stable homes with a mother and a father.” He explicitly uses the words “same sex couples”. That sentence is then juxtaposed with his representation of Dr. Sirota’s study and one other study. Clearly the latter are meant to be relevant to the former.
    When he says, in the above quote, “Never once did I draw any direct conclusions from your study about adoption and those who have told you that have led you astray”, he’s being utterly disingenuous.

  • 6
    Spunky says:

    @ Lightning Baltimore
    I am flabbergasted that someone who holds an M.D. could act so unprofessionally. I don’t know if he intentionally ignores her point or if he genuinely doesn’t understand, but his levels of conduct and discourse are unacceptable at any level, much less as a scholar. His comments sound Ari-esque (see: banned Ruth Blog contributor), only with a more condescending tone. Seriously, he’s talking down to Ph. D.’s about their own research! And their reputations! Unbelievable.

  • 7
    JCF says:

    I’m only surprised that anyone’s surprised.
    I’m thinking of the non-lamented former Presidential candidate Michele Bachmann. In one of the stories about her last summer, it talked about her formation at Oral Roberts University: the importance of a “Biblical Worldview.” I see something similar (identical?) here.
    If you think about it from the POV of someone like Fitzgibbons, FACTS ARE IRRELEVANT. If you don’t have an Anti-Gay Worldview (like Dr. Sirota doesn’t!), Sirota is literally incapable of understanding her own study.
    Remember the Bush Administration and the “Downing Street Memo” (re Iraq): they will “fix the facts to match the policy.”
    That’s what these wingnuts do (and they DON’T CARE how many lies they have to tell, or reputations they have to smear, to do so. “If they don’t have an Anti-Gay World view, f*ck ‘em!”)

  • 8
    Steve T. says:

    Spunky, an MD means he’s qualified to practice as a doctor, not that he’s a reputable scholar. My partner is a retired UCLA professor (music), who knew colleagues with both an MD and a medical PhD. They all said the PhD — the academic, scholarly degree — was by far the harder one to get.

    A doctor MAY be a decent scholar, scientific researcher, with high standards of professionalism in his writings. But those two letters don’t guarantee it.

  • 9

    […] of Homosexuality (NARTH) of misrepresenting research. In a statement first issued to blogger Rob Tisinai yesterday, Theodora Sirota, a professor of Nursing at Seton Hall University, said, NARTH advisory […]

  • 10
    Neil says:

    Geez, that Dr Sirota doesn’t know what she’s talking about. But Dr Rick sure knows what she doesn’t know. He’s a smart guy. He not only read what she wrote, he read what she didn’t write too. That takes an almost superhuman level of intelligence. Doesn’t it? He’s so smart he’s able to cite studies to support his case even when they literally don’t appear to and then take the author to task for missing the vital component, concurrence with his views. His views are the way he views things. That’s science. Ya can’t argue with science. And ya can’t argue with Dr Rick.

  • 11
    StraightGrandmother says:

    It is even worse. Please read my comments in the Mercater article, Dr.Fitzgibbons misrepresents TWO researchers research, Two. I contacted both of them by e-mail and asked them both to enter a comment in the discussion. Dr. Sirota did enter a comment, the other PhD replied to me via e-mail and said that Dr.Fitzgibbons was misrepresenting her research in his article. I am on vacation or I would write more. If you contact the other PhD she will say the same thing.

  • 12
    Another Matt says:

    You realize, of course, that you have a *confound* in your study. You cannot tell if the central cause of your findings is homosexuality per se or “heterosexually organized families where fathers identify as gay or bisexual.” 

    WHOA. If he thinks this is true then he also has no basis on which to interpret the results one way or the other. His misrepresentation is not in his interpretation of the study’s results (and his interpretation is the most extravagant interpretation of the results that can still be called relevant), it’s in the fact that he did not disclose an important feature of the study!!

  • 13
    Regan DuCasse says:

    What sets me off, really sets me off…is reporting on gay parenting that their children ‘suffer’. If they believe that a single gender home is a deficiency of some kind, it’s an easily remedied one because NO gay couples are so isolated from the opposite gender by any means. This arrogant assumption makes it sound like a ss parent home deserves discrimination, as if the WORST type of situation that can be controlled by the government.
        There is no morality, competence or other qualifications tests to be married or a parent. Being a man and a woman as the only qualifications that matter to the anti gay, cannot recognize WHAT kind of man and woman it is. There aren’t even any qualifications required by the state that understands if that man/woman KNOW each other, let alone love each other.
    So on it’s face his argument is specious, but most of all, unrealistic and an assessment that has no basis for ANY kind of marriage discrimination in particular.
        I’m so done with procreational intents and ability as a requisite to be married is bad enough as an example of double or non existent standards of marriage law.
    The point is that marriage is supposed to be GOOD for anyone to aspire to. Marriage is good for society, therefore it’s as open to the worst of us, the diseased, the disabled, the INCARCERATED, the poor, as it is to the presumed BEST of us.
    It’s not about who is good enough to marry, but that marriage is good enough for those who choose to marry.
    All Fitzgibbons does is chum the waters and counts on ths laziness and the unintelligent to forget this reality. But mores the point, it’s very cruel to gorge oneself on something like marriage, waste a great deal of it, and force gay people to watch all this and starve for it.
    This is exactly what the anti gay expect to happen with the government’s blessing. All the while suffering NO harm or diminishment of the integrity or worth of marriage at all.
    Especially if the most reprobate hetero can marry, and Fitzgibbons and his ilk aren’t concerned about that.

  • 14

    […] know a bit about Regnerus and Sirota. Their studies tell us nothing about same-sex parenting. I called the phone number on the press […]

  • 15

    […] know a bit about Regnerus and Sirota. Their studies tell us nothing about same-sex parenting. I called the phone number on the press […]

  • 16

    […] law across states, or just the other day when NOM falsely claimed once again that the Regnerus and Sirota studies were about same-sex […]

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