01/05/2012 09:58 pm ET Updated Feb 02, 2016

Another Researcher Complains That an Anti-Gay Group Distorted Her Work

A researcher has come out complaining that a religious-right "expert" distorted her work to stigmatize the LGBTQ community.

According to Box Turtle Bulletin, Rick Fitzgibbons of the National Association of Research and Therapy of Homosexuality (NARTH) wrote a piece about same-sex adoption. In the piece Fitzgibbons cites the work of Seton Hall professor Theodora Sirota to make the case that children in same-sex households are not raised better than children "in stable homes with a mother and a father."

However, according to Sirota, Fitzgibbons misused her work. You can read her statement here, but Box Turtle Bulletin breaks the distortion down nicely:

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.

Or as Dr. Sirota says in her letter, "[N]o conclusions about gay or lesbian fitness to adopt children or quality of active gay parenting can be drawn from the findings of my research. No conclusions about the well-being of children who are or were actively raised by gay or lesbian parents can be drawn from the findings of my research."

While religious-right circles look upon NARTH as experts on the LGBT community, the mainstream scientific community pretty much ignores the group's research, and with good reason. Truth Wins Out calls NARTH "a discredited 'ex-gay' fringe organization that peddles fraudulent 'cures' for homosexuality." According to Truth Wins Out:

NARTH' co-founder, Joesph Nicolosi encourages male clients to become more masculine by drinking Gatorade and referring to friends as "dude". NARTH therapists have been known to practice rubber band therapy, where a gay client is made to wear a rubber band and snap it on his wrist when sexually stimulated. It is a mild form of aversion therapy meant to "snap" the client out of the moment of attraction. NARTH members have also been known to practice "touch therapy", where a client sits in the therapist' lap for up to an hour, while the therapist caresses him.

In 2010 another member of NARTH, George Rekers, resigned from the organization after being caught returning from a vacation overseas with a "rentboy."

Unfortunately, NARTH isn't the only religious-right organization to distort legitimate scientific work. Other groups have gotten into trouble over this sadly overlooked aspect of the so-called culture wars. Over the years, there have been 11 other complaints from researchers that their work was being distorted by religious-right and so-called "pro-family" groups, including:

  1. National Institute of Health director Francis Collins, who rebuked the right-wing American College of Pediatricians for falsely claiming that he stated that sexual orientation is not hardwired by DNA.
  2. Six researchers of a 1997 Canadian study (Robert S. Hogg, Stefan A. Strathdee, Kevin J.P. Craib, Michael V. Shaughnessy, Julio Montaner, and Martin T. Schehter), who complained in 2001 that religious-right groups were distorting their work to claim that gay men have a short life span.
  3. The authors of the book Unequal Opportunity: Health Disparities Affecting Gay and Bisexual Men in the United States (Professors Richard J. Wolitski, Ron Stall, and Ronald O. Valdiserri), who complained that their work was being distorted by Focus on the Family.
  4. University College London professor Michael King, who complained that the American Family Association was distorting his work on depression and suicide in LGBT individuals.
  5. University of Utah professor Lisa Diamond, who complained that NARTH, which also share board members with the American College of Pediatricians, distorted her research on sexual orientation.
  6. Dr. Carol Gilligan, professor of education and law at New York University, who complained that former Focus on the Family head James Dobson misrepresented her research to attack LGBT families.
  7. Dr. Kyle Pruett, Ph.D., a professor of child psychiatry at the Yale School of Medicine, who has also complained that Focus on the Family distorted his work.
  8. Dr. Robert Spitzer, professor of psychiatry at Columbia University, who has consistently complained that religious-right groups distorted his study to claim that same-sex orientation is easily changeable.
  9. Judith Stacey, professor of sociology at New York University, who has had to, on more than one occasion, cry foul over how religious-right groups distorted her work on LGBT families.
  10. Greg Remafedi, professor at the University of Minnesota, who has complained several times about how religious-right groups, such as the American College of Pediatricians and PFOX, have distorted his work, all to no avail. The American College of Pediatricians refused his request to remove his work from their site.
  11. In 2010 John Horgan, a science journalist and director of the Center for Science Writings at the Stevens Institute of Technology, became the 11th researcher to complain.

Last year Tom Minnery, a spokesman for Focus on the Family, was dressed down by Sen. Al Franken (D-Minn.) during a congressional hearing for deliberately misrepresenting a study. Minnery initially used the study to claim, as Fitzgibbons did in his misrepresentation of Theodora Sirota's work, that same-sex households are inferior to two-parent mother/father households.