Protests over the no-gays policy gained momentum in 2000, when the U.S. Supreme Court upheld the BSA's right to exclude gays. Scout units lost sponsorships by public schools and other entities that adhered to nondiscrimination policies, and several local Scout councils made public their displeasure with the policy.
More recently, pressure surfaced on the Scouts' own national executive board. Two high-powered members — Ernst & Young CEO James Turley and AT&T Inc. CEO Randall Stephenson — indicated they would try to work from within to change the membership policy, which stood in contrast to their own companies' non-discrimination policies.
Amid petition campaigns by Change.org, shipping giant UPS Inc. and drug-manufacturer Merck & Co. announced that they were halting donations from their charitable foundations to the Boy Scouts as long as the no-gays policy was in force.
Also, local Scout officials drew widespread criticism last year for ousting Jennifer Tyrrell, a lesbian mom, as a den leader of her son's Cub Scout pack in Ohio and for refusing to approve an Eagle Scout application by Ryan Andresen, a California teen who came out as gay last fall.
Tyrrell said she was thrilled for parents and their children who've been excluded from scouting and "for those who are in Scouts and hiding who they are."
"For me it's not just about the Boy Scouts of America, it's about equality," she told The Associated Press. "This is a step toward equality in all aspects."
Many of the protest campaigns, including one seeking Tyrrell's reinstatement, had been waged with help from the Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation.
"The Boy Scouts of America have heard from Scouts, corporations and millions of Americans that discriminating against gay scouts and scout leaders is wrong," said Herndon Graddick, GLAAD's president. "Scouting is a valuable institution, and this change will only strengthen its core principles of fairness and respect."