I don't think people say it doesn't help it. It's more like, "your mileage may vary". It's not the hugest soft factor, though.
That's the perfect way to put it. I think your mileage varies by both school and each individual person.
I've heard Cornell and U Penn (in the T20) give you an up if you're openly gay, which may not be as such a benefit at say... at Liberty University.
The second part is what everyone says- gotta be active in it.
eg.-If you say you're gay hoping for points, but your only extra-curricular is being your frat's freshmen rush chair, then it might not bring you as far as if you changed your frat's policy on gays, or got a frat kicked off-campus for anti-gay hazing/activity.
couldn't you make the argument though that you're planning on being "out" during law school? thus not being involved directly right now?
As much as schools bullshit it, I don't really think they care how many out gays attend.
I think they just care more about how you deal with adversity
in general, and for some people, homophobia is that adversity. Someone who was raised in the inner cities, when to a top university, and made a program to help other kids from the inner cities overcome the poverty barrier would probably get a much higher boost than an "I will work on the issue later" PS.
Thus, that's the reason most people advocate the "active gay" thing. It's not just to keep non-gays from pretending to be gay to get a boost, but more the means rather than the ends of what you want to get across in your PS. The "ends" I'm talking about is what you've learned/got in the process of being "actively" gay, and I think it's much more meaningful.
This might just be me, but a more powerful PS will say:
"I'm gay, and I've faced adversity and overcome it. The strength/character/virtueX that I've shown throughout college by
combating homophobia is the reason why I'm a strong candidate for your law school."
Adcom: Ah. He can use virtueX that he's acquired over the years to challenge any type of adversity, in the classroom or in the workforce. Not only will he be able to use his experiences to illustrate a unique point of view in the classroom, but he'll also become a productive member of society, make a lot of money, and donate a bunch back to us.
"I'm gay, and that makes me different than being straight. I'll provide a different point of view in the classroom that you want."
Adcom: Ah. He's gay. Good...he's different. But if he's never done anything about
being different, what experiences will he be able to fall upon in order to diversity our classroom experience for other kids? For all we know, he could just be a gay who doesn't talk in class and won't contribute anything to the law school experience we're trying to craft together.