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From President Obama on down, Democrats almost universally support gay-rights claims for equal treatment, but Republicans are a different story.

If the BSA admits openly gay Scouts, some Republican candidates and officeholders will be in tight spots, whether they endorse or reject the change. Opponents of the proposed change have been unable to muster the big names or organizational muscle that supporters can boast.

Mr. Stemberger said he temporarily set aside his law practice and minimized his work with the Florida Family Policy Council “to focus full-time” on, which aims to keep “sex and politics” out of Scouting. But there has been no visible nationwide massing of born-again Christians against the issue, even though polls and conversations with evangelicals show them to be intensely negative on easing the ban.

The political sensitivity of the issue for the national Scouting organization is evident not only from the hiring of Mr. Reed, who was the first director of Pat Robertson’s Christian Coalition in 1989, but also in the mostly tight-lipped stand on the issue by the BSA and its largest local unit, BSA’s Utah National Parks Council, which last week sided with proponents of allowing gay Scouts to participate but declined to acknowledge publicly that it took a stand at all.

Opponents of the BSA resolution say it would require every Scout troop, regardless of its chartering organization’s religious convictions, to accept “open and avowed homosexual” youths. The ban on adult gay leaders, they say, cannot survive long after that.

“Even though the proposed resolution would not apply to adults immediately, legal experts estimate the new rule will also extend to everyone in the BSA, including adults, within a couple of years after lawsuits are brought by gay activists under nondiscrimination clauses around the country,” Mr. Stemberger said.

Religious divide

The issue may deepen the divide between many who are one with Mr. Reed’s brand of Christianity and Mormons, the majority of whom are also on the religious right and supporters of the GOP.

The behind-the-scenes effectiveness of the Mormon Church, which sponsors more than a third of all Scout troops in America, is becoming more visible and appears to be nudging the GOP a bit toward a more libertarian stand on some social and cultural issues. Up to a point, Mormons and evangelicals think that the more libertarian the nation’s political center of gravity, the lower the risk of government meddling in religious matters.

But overall, it’s Mormonism that may be on the ascendancy. The nation’s best-known Mormon politician — Mitt Romney — unequivocally endorsed gay equality in Scouting in 1994, long before his 2012 presidential race.

“I feel that all people should be allowed to participate in the Boy Scouts, regardless of their sexual orientation,” Mr. Romney said at the time, adding that it’s “the right of the Boy Scouts of America to decide what it wants to do on that issue.”