The Boy Scouts of America’s proposal to welcome openly gay scouts — even while still ban gay adult scout leaders — is sure to reignite an already hot debate over the role of gays in society. And, at least when it comes to the Scouts, the issue isn’t totally cut and dry.
A slim majority — 51 percent — said Boy Scouts should allow gay members in a March CBS News poll, with support peaking at 64 percent among those under age 30. But as noted by the Pew Research Center’s Michael Dimock, a USA Today/Gallup poll last fall found a similar majority — 52 percent — saying the Boy Scouts should not allow openly gay scout leaders.
While public support for legal rights such as gay marriage has increased rapidly over the past decade, the Boy Scouts’ diverse membership may be a long way from consensus on the issue.
In all, seven in 10 Boy Scout groups are chartered to religious groups, and more than one-third are affiliated with the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, whose followers express broad resistance to homosexuality. Almost two-thirds of Mormons (65 percent) said homosexuality should be discouraged by society in a 2011 survey by the Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life. Just 33 percent of the public at-large said it should be discouraged, while 58 percent said it should be accepted.
Boy Scout troops affiliated with other religious traditions may be less resistant to allowing gay leaders. Wide majorities of Catholics and mainline Protestants — who account for significant shares of Boy Scout charters — said homosexuality should be accepted by society.
Clement is a pollster with Capital Insight, the independent polling group of Washington Post Media. Pollster Peyton M. Craighill contributed to this report.