The ban on gays, which the U.S. Supreme Court upheld as constitutional in 2000, has provoked a multitude of protest campaigns over the years. Numerous Scout councils and Scout leaders have expressed disagreement with the policy, and some corporate donors last year said they were suspending gifts to the BSA until the policy changed.
One of these companies, New Jersey-based drug-maker Merck & Co., said Tuesday it was pleased the BSA was reconsidering its position, but declined further comment.
Another form of protest involved Eagle Scouts who returned their medals and badges to Boy Scout headquarters. Among them was Nate May, a 25-year-old musician from Huntington, W.Va., who depicted the Scouts' new proposal as "a step in the right direction."
Later this year, more than 40,000 Scouts from across the country are expected to participate in the annual National Jamboree at a 10,600-acre site being built in southern West Virginia.
If the new policy is in place by then, May said, there could be some teasing and hurt feelings as gays make their public debut at the Jamboree. But overall, he predicted a positive experience.
"It would potentially open up some really interesting dialogues," May said. "I think it will probably show troops that continue to have the ban that a troop can exist in harmony, even with gays in it."
In Philadelphia, scoutmaster Ann Perrone said she's spent the past 13 years fighting the ban by writing letters, speaking out and wearing gay-rights rainbow symbols.
"I've done everything I can think of to make a local difference," Perrone said. "I'm really thrilled."
Perrone, an African-American, said she benefited from white support for the civil rights movement and now, as a straight woman, sees a chance to help expand the rights of gays and lesbians.