Science Retracts 2014 Study of Attributions About Gay Marriage Over Objections of Lead Author

This retraction had been anticipated, but just a little while ago, Science made it official. The 2014 study of attitude change toward gay marriage had been widely criticized. The now-retracted study abstract indicated that brief contacts with pro-gay marriage people could generate significant attitude change.

Can a single conversation change minds on divisive social issues, such as same-sex marriage? A randomized placebo-controlled trial assessed whether gay (n = 22) or straight (n = 19) messengers were effective at encouraging voters (n = 972) to support same-sex marriage and whether attitude change persisted and spread to others in voters’ social networks. The results, measured by an unrelated panel survey, show that both gay and straight canvassers produced large effects initially, but only gay canvassers’ effects persisted in 3-week, 6-week, and 9-month follow-ups. We also find strong evidence of within-household transmission of opinion change, but only in the wake of conversations with gay canvassers. Contact with gay canvassers further caused substantial change in the ratings of gay men and lesbians more generally. These large, persistent, and contagious effects were confirmed by a follow-up experiment. Contact with minorities coupled with discussion of issues pertinent to them is capable of producing a cascade of opinion change.

Science’s Office of Public Affairs provided the following press release:

Subject:For Immediate Release: Retraction of Science Report by LaCour and Green
Date: May 28, 2015 at 2:00:16 PM EDT
Dear Science press package registrants,
Today, Thursday, 28 May, 2015, Science, with the concurrence of author Donald P. Green, is retracting the 12 December 2014 Report “When contact changes minds: An experiment on transmission of support for gay equality,” by Michael J. LaCour and Dr. Green. Mr. LaCour does not agree to this retraction.
Science provided three key reasons for the retraction: (1) the misrepresentation of survey incentives; (2) false statements of sponsorship; and (3) the inability to produce original data, which makes it impossible to verify or alleviate concerns about statistical irregularities documented in an independent online response to the original work. Please refer to the “summary of irregularities” cited in the retraction.
Science had previously published an Editorial Expression of Concern about the study, on Wednesday, 20 May, 2015, to alert readers to the fact that serious questions had been raised about the validity of the study’s results. This was after receiving a retraction request from Dr. Green, on Tuesday, 19 May, 2015.
Reporters registered with EurekAlert! can also refer to the original Science Press Package summary of this study and related materials, which have been updated with a retraction notice.
A link to a related news story by John Bohannon, a contributing correspondent to Science’s news department, can be found here: http://news.sciencemag.org/scientific-community/2015/05/science-retracts-gay-marriage-paper-without-lead-author-s-consent
Links to Retraction and other Materials Cited Above:
Report: http://www.sciencemag.org/content/346/6215/1366.abstract?sid=42205fe4-b4a6-4cde-bc1a-3c3caaecfdc5
Retraction: http://www.sciencemag.org/content/early/2015/05/27/science.aac6638
Independent Online Response:http://stanford.edu/~dbroock/broockman_kalla_aronow_lg_irregularities.pdf
Editorial Expression of Concern:http://www.sciencemag.org/content/early/2015/05/20/science.aac6184
Original Science Press Package Summary: http://www.eurekalert.org/jrnls/sci/summaries-12-12-14.php#C
Sincerely,
Science Press Package Team, Office of Public Programs
American Association for the Advancement of Science
1200 New York Avenue, NW | Washington, DC 20005
Phone: 202-326-6440 | E-mail: scipak@aaas.org
Twitter: @scipak | www.aaas.org

 

UPDATED: Supreme Court Marriage Decisions: DOMA Overturned; Prop 8 Dismissed

UPDATE: Scroll down to the update for links to the decisions and excerpts from the cases. In short, DOMA has been overturned and Prop 8 was dismissed based on lack of standing of those bringing the case.
……….
Today, the Supreme Court hands down decisions in two cases which address gay marriage.  One, Hollingsworth v. Perry (No. 12-144) decides whether California’s Proposition 8 violates the Constitution. The second case is United States v. Windsor (No. 12-307) in which the court will decide whether a part of the federal Defense of Marriage Act of 1996 violates the Constitution. DOMA defines marriage as “only a legal union between one man and one woman as husband and wife” for the purpose of determining federal benefits.
Yesterday, the court announced that the rest of the court’s decisions would be announced today. Court watchers think the decision will be out sometime around 10am. All eyes will be on the decision, and, like a lot of blogs and news sources, I will post links to the decisions and commentary about them.
UPDATE: The DOMA decision is out. DOMA has been overturned on a 5-4 vote. From SCOTUS Blog: “5-4:DOMA is unconstitutional as a deprivation of the equal liberty of persons that is protected by the Fifth Amendment.”
DOMA opinion is here: http://www.supremecourt.gov/opinions/12pdf/12-307_g2bh.pdf
From the opinion (25-26)

DOMA singles out a class of persons deemed by a State entitled to recognition and protection to enhance their own liberty. It imposes a disability on the class by refusing to acknowledge a status the State finds to be dignified and proper. DOMA instructs all federal officials, and indeed all persons with whom same-sex couples interact, including their own children, that their marriage is less worthy than the marriages of others. The federal statute is invalid, for no legitimate purpose overcomes the purpose and effect to disparage and to injure those whom the State, by its marriage laws, sought to protect in personhood and dignity.By seeking to displace this protection and treating those persons as living in marriages less respected than others,the federal statute is in violation of the Fifth Amendment. This opinion and its holding are confined to those lawful marriages.

The Prop 8 case may be dismissed based on standing.  From Justice Robert’s dissent:

we hold today that we lack jurisdiction to consider it in the particular context of Hollingsworth v. Perry, ante, p. ___. I write only to highlight the limits of the majority’s holding andreasoning today, lest its opinion be taken to resolve notonly a question that I believe is not properly before us—DOMA’s constitutionality—but also a question that all agree, and the Court explicitly acknowledges, is not at issue.

According to Amy Howe at the SCOTUS Blog,

What this means, in plain terms, is that same-sex couples who are legally married will be entitled to equal treatment under federal law– with regard to, for example, income taxes and Social Security benefits.
Now the Prop 8 case:
We have never before upheld the standing of a private party to defend the constitutionality of a state statute when state officials have chosen not to. We decline to do so for the first time here.
From Hollingsworth v. Perry (pg. 3):
No matter how deeply committed petitioners may be to upholding Proposition 8, that is not a particularized interest sufficient to create a case or controversy under Article III.
From the SCOTUS Blog:
Same-sex marriage will be available in CA, at least where court clerks take the position that Prop 8 is unconstitutional.
This post, written in anticipation of various possible outcomes, lays out the issues now.

 

What does Ron Paul really believe about gays?

Currently, with one week remaining until Iowa’s Presidential Caucus, Ron Paul is in the hot seat. The Texas GOP hopeful denies writing racist columns for a newsletter bearing his name during the 1990s. Examining Paul’s denials, the Washington Post’s Josh Hicks gave Paul three Pinocchios which according to the Post means that Paul’s statements are misleading and use “legalistic language that means little to ordinary people.”

Paul’s views on gays are also open to question. One newsletter citation, frequently noted in the press, relates to his views on gays and HIV. Reportedly Paul said that gays “enjoy the attention” of that illness. In another 1989 newsletter, he criticizes the Massachusetts legislature for passing a gay rights laws, and implies that gays wanted to promote pedophilia:

Given the fact that Paul recently reversed himself and voted to repeal Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell, one might wonder if his views on gays have changed. However, the Paul campaign’s current State Director is Mike Heath. Heath is also the chairman of the board of the Americans for Truth About Homosexuality and once worked to oppose state initiatives such as the one condemned by Paul in the 1989 newsletter. A 2010 article on the AFTAH website describes Heath as

…the former executive director of the Christian Civic League of Maine and the new executive director of American Family Association of New England. (Heath will also retain the title of AFA of Maine.) He is also the only pro-family leader in American history to direct (as part of a pro-family coalition in Maine) the defeat of two statewide homosexual “special rights” laws, 1998 and 2001. In this interview, Heath, the Board Chairman of AFTAH, touches on the new evangelical politics surrounding anti-”gay marriage” initiatives — in which principled advocates against homosexuality like Heath are ostracized in the name of building coalitions more palatable to “moderate” voters.

AFTAH describes itself as “a group dedicated to exposing the homosexual activist agenda.” Last year, the organization was listed as a “hate group” by the Southern Poverty Law Center due to frequent misrepresentations and vilification of gays in public statements and literature. Just recently, AFTAH used the Penn State child abuse scandal as a platform to link sex crimes of pedophiles with homosexuality.

Apparently, Heath’s work is having some effect in Iowa with at least one endorsement touted on Paul’s website. According to the news release announcing the endorsement, Heath has been to “295 houses of worship” in Iowa. On the matter of gays and gay rights, I wonder what position is being articulated in those houses of worship.

Given his prior newsletters and his current staff, it is fair to ask what Ron Paul really believes. Despite Paul’s denials, his views in 2012 may be about what they were in 1989.

UPDATE: Here is more on Ron Paul’s views from a former staffer. According to Eric Dondero, Paul is uncomfortable around gays but believes they should be free to do whatever they please in their private lives. The Paul campaign is taking this seriously, responding to CBS News over the matter.

If Paul had any chances to catch on with the mainstream, they are pretty much gone now. He claims he didn’t write the racist and bigoted newsletters but he has yet to name who did. He says he does not know but he has not, as far as I can read, given even a theory about who did or how he could recommend the newsletter without knowing what was in it.

 

How will this play in Iowa?

New York can keep their gay marriage according to Texas Governor Rick Perry.

“Our friends in New York six weeks ago passed a statute that said marriage can be between two people of the same sex. And you know what? That’s New York, and that’s their business, and that’s fine with me. That is their call. If you believe in the 10th Amendment, stay out of their business,” Perry said at an event held by the Aspen Institute in Aspen, Colo., on Friday.

I read somewhere that the American Family Association had not decided if Gov. Perry was going to speak at his prayer meeting. With this news, they might not let him in.

Department of Justice won’t defend DOMA, advocates “heightened scrutiny”

Old news by now, but I am including the post by request to facilitate discussion.

Some see it as a way to maintain support among younger voters since they favor gay marriage. I think this puts more pressure on the GOP to come out strongly against gay marriage in order to differentiate the party on the issue. While I think that would be misguided and cut against them in the general election, I am pretty sure this will be a big deal during the primary season.

To better understand the legal issues involved, see this article which reviews the different types of scrutiny a discriminatory law must go through. Also here is AG Holder’s letter laying out the Administration’s position and support for a heightened scrutiny analysis.

To those who say equal rights is not linked with legal assessments of status, I say read the letter and this article.

Malawi gay couple jailed for “unnatural acts”

According to this CNN report, the Malawian same-sex couple who wed have been found guilty of indecency and unnatural acts.

The pair was arrested in December at their home in Blantyre, Malawi, for professing their love in a traditional engagement ceremony. They were rounded up after news reports surfaced, charged under colonial-era sodomy laws and detained at Chichiru Prison without bail.

The arrests received some popular support in the conservative southern African nation, but sparked condemnation by gay rights activists. Human rights groups including Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch have called for the release of the couple.

Critics on the scene and condemned the sentence.

“There was no victim in this case, yet they were given a very harsh sentence by the judge,” said Gift Trapence, executive director of a Malawi human rights group.

This tragic situation is much like what is possible in Uganda. And sadly, you have the church associated with this limitation of personal freedom of conscience.

“Most people are repugnant towards homosexuality,” said Canaan Phiri, secretary general of the Malawi Council of Churches. “People do not declare their homosexuality because people are against this.”

Today's forecast: 100% chance that today's top stories will involve a Supreme Court

Obama announces his SCOTUS pick at 10:15am (est) .
California Supreme Court announces ruling on Prop 8 appeal at 1:00pm (est).
CNN and USA Today is reporting that Obama will nominate Sonia Sotomayor. If true and if confirmed, she will be the first Hispanic justice. She was nominated to the federal bench by George Bush I. Her wikipedia entry already has the news.
Got any other news you want to drop today? I wouldn’t advise it. I think these two stories may push North Korea to #3.
UPDATE: 5/26/09 – Prop 8 is upheld and but 18,000 current same-sex marriages will continue to be recognized. The ruling in .pdf is here.

Carrie Prejean has second thoughts about recent Blisss Magazine pic

On the heels of defending revealing photos as part of the job of a model, Carrie Prejean has had second thoughts about a recent photo published in Blisss Magazine (spelled Bl!sss on the mag website). Miss Prejean’s pic is a “Super Taste” centerfold of the month and is the lead photo on her Otto Models page. (warning: not workplace friendly)
The recent controversy surrounding Miss Prejean’s modeling work has focused on pictures of her taken when she was 17. She has expressed regret publicly about those photos.

Her publicist, Melany Ethridge, confirmed a comment she gave to celebrity Web site TMZ in which she said Prejean was just 17 when she posed for the photos, hoping they would land her a job model for the Victoria’s Secret lingerie line.
“In her naivete, an agent convinced her to pose for this photo to submit to a lingerie company, claiming they could make her the next Victoria’s Secret model,” Ethridge told TMZ. “She has since learned what a lie that was, and what a mistake it was to have the photo taken.”

However, she defended lingerie modeling as recently as Tuesday when she issued a statement saying:

I am a Christian, and I am a model. Models pose for pictures, including lingerie and swimwear photos.

More recently, she posed for the centerfold of Bl!sss, an action sports oriented magazine which features young women in various states of undress. She touts the Blisss modeling assignment on the Miss California website as part of her resume. However, through her publicist, I have learned that Prejean regrets the Blisss Magazine photo. Her publicist, Melany Ethridge, said that Miss Prejean has had second thoughts. Late yesterday, Ms. Ethridge told me that

…she would not do the Blisss mag photo shoot, if asked now.

Melany did not address my question about whether Miss Prejean would take such jobs in the future. However, this new statement may signal a broader evaluation of her work.
UPDATE: Earlier today, Melany Ethridge contacted me to say that the original statement above about the Bl!sss magazine photo was her belief about what Ms. Prejean would do. However, this afternoon, she now has confirmed with Prejean that “given who she is today,” she would not take the job.
UPDATE 2: Monday appears to be decision-day for Miss California.

New Danish study reviews mortality among married gays

In April, 2007, I posted a rebuttal to Paul and Kirk Cameron’s claims that gays die 20-plus years sooner than straights. That post was the first of a nine-part series, Only the Gay Die Young? The links will show up if you click here, here and here. Also, I brought them all together in an article with additional commentary in an article presented at a research summit I conducted in 2007.
Participating in that exchange was Morten Frisch, Danish epidemiologist. I initially corresponded with Dr. Frisch concerning his 2006 article on environmental influences in homosexual versus heterosexual marriage decisions. When Paul and Kirk Cameron produced their mortality study at the Eastern Psychological Association, I contacted Dr. Frisch for comment. Dr. Frisch dismissed the Camerons’ methods saying,

Cameron and Cameron’s report on “life expectancy” in homosexuals vs heterosexuals is severely methodologically flawed
It is no wonder why this pseudo-scientific report claiming a drastically shorter life expectancy in homosexuals compared with heterosexuals has been published on the internet without preceding scientific peer-review (http://www.earnedmedia.org/frireport.htm). The authors should know, and as PhDs they presumably do, that this report has little to do with science. It is hard to escape the idea that non-scientific motifs have driven the authors to make this report public. The methodological flaws are of such a grave nature that no decent peer-reviewed scientific journal should let it pass for publication

In this case, Dr. Frisch did more than critique the Camerons. He, along with colleague Henrik Brønnum-Hansen, conducted a study using the data from Denmark regarding married gays and straights. The study will be published in the January, 2009 edition of the American Journal of Public Health, but is being released today via the journal’s website. Dr. Frisch was kind enough to forward a copy which I summarize here.
Frisch and Brønnum-Hansen found that Danish men marrying soon after the Danish same-sex marriage law was enacted had markedly higher death rates than men in the general Danish population. They speculate that these men were ill, ordinarily with AIDS or AIDS related illnesses, but also from other life-threatening diseases, and wanted to marry to establish rights of survivorship or other benefits for a surviving spouse. However, the mortality for homosexual men marrying after 1996 is virtually the same as for heterosexual men in Denmark. Thus, since HIV/AIDS has been more successfully managed, the mortality rates have declined dramatically.
During the height of the AIDS crisis, life expectancies were understandably depressed. This study indicates that mortality has improved substantially.
In the article, Frisch and Brønnum-Hansen directly address the methods of the Camerons.

Flawed Claims of Major Excess Mortality
Authors from the Family Research Institute, a US-based institution fighting to ‘‘restore a world . . . where homosexuality is not taught and accepted, but instead is discouraged and rejected at every level, ’’have produced a series of reports in which they claim homosexuality is incompatible with full health and as dangerous to public health as drug abuse, prostitution, and smoking. In a recent
report, the authors obtained data from Statistics Denmark and Statistics Norway and compared the average age at death among men and women who had ever been in a same-sex marriage with the average age at death among people who had ever been heterosexually married.
Because the age distribution among persons in same-sex marriages was considerably younger than that of people who had ever been heterosexually married, the average age at death among those who actually died during the observation period was, not surprisingly, considerably younger in the population of same-sex married persons. The Family Research Institute presented the lower mean age at death (by 22–25 years) for persons in same-sex versus heterosexual marriages as evidence that persons who married heterosexually ‘‘outlived gays and lesbians by more than 20 years on average.’’ Elementary textbooks in epidemiology warn against such undue comparisons between group averages because they lead to seemingly common-sense yet seriously flawed conclusions.

I am still reviewing the details and will add more as I complete my review. For now, I will say that I appreciate Dr. Frisch’s work and efforts to gain an objective look at this controversial topic.
The study reference is: Frisch, M. & Brønnum-Hansen, H. (2009). Mortality Among Men and Women in Same-Sex Marriage: A National Cohort Study of 8333 Danes. American Journal of Public Health 99,(1), available online at http://www.ajph.org/first_look.shtml.