WATERLOO, Iowa. — Republican presidential hopeful Scott Walker is continuing to struggle over questions about gay rights, telling CNN this weekend that he does not know whether being gay is a choice.
As the general public has quickly become more accepting of LGBT rights and gay marriage, Walker has opposed same-sex marriage more forcefully than many of his fellow Republican candidates — and he has, at times, struggled to explain his views on other LGBT issues. After the Supreme Court's landmark decision to allow gay marriage in all 50 states, he called for a constitutional amendment that would allow states to ban same-sex marriage. Walker's two college-age sons have said that they support gay marriage. Tonette Walker, Walker's wife, has said that she's emotionally torn on the issue, as a close relative is gay and recently married her partner, but that she stands with her husband on the issue.
Although his stance could help Scott Walker win the Iowa caucuses, which are often dominated by social conservatives, some of his donors and supporters worry that it could hurt him in later primaries or the general election.
Early last week, Walker told the Independent Journal Review, an online news outlet aimed at young conservatives, that the Boy Scouts of America should keep its ban on gay leaders because it "protected children and advanced Scout values.” That immediately ignited a backlash, with gay rights activists saying he needed to apologize for implying that young boys must be protected from gay leaders. Walker later said that he wants to protect Boy Scouts from a "political and media discussion." He has since said that it is up to the Boy Scouts, not him, to decide whether the policy should be changed.
"I'm not talking about personal protection," Walker said in the CNN interview. "I'm talking about, for me, the reason why I didn't have a problem with it is I just think it pulls scouting into a whole larger political and cultural debate as opposed to just saying scouting is about camping and citizenship and merit badges and service awards instead of pulling all these other issues out there. And I was just hoping that they could stay focused on that, that's all."
When CNN asked whether being gay is a choice, Walker said it is "not even an issue for me to be involved in."
"The bottom line is I'm going to stand up and work hard for every American, without regard of who they are, no matter where they come from, no matter what their background. I'm going to fight for people, whether they vote for me or not," he responded.
Former Texas governor Rick Perry (R) wrote in his 2008 book about the Boy Scouts — titled "On My Honor: Why the American Values of the Boy Scouts Are Worth Fighting for" — that openly gay leaders would present a problem: "[G]ay activism is central to their lives. It would unavoidably be a topic of conversation within a scout troop. This would distract from the mission of scouting, character building, not sex education."
Perry said in an interview with NBC News’ “Meet the Press” on Saturday that he stands by that statement and opposes the Boy Scouts changing its policy.
"I do," said Perry, who is also making an aggressive play for voters in Iowa. "I believe that scouting would be better off if they didn't have openly gay scoutmasters."