In Philadelphia, the city fought the exclusionary policy by attempting to evict the Cradle of Liberty, the local chapter of the Boy Scouts, from its headquarters in a city-owned building.
A federal jury in 2010 sided with the Boy Scouts on First Amendment grounds, and U.S. District Judge Ronald L. Buckwalter in March ordered the city to pay nearly $900,000 in legal bills incurred by the scouts. The city is appealing that ruling and the 2010 jury verdict.
In a statement, Mayor Nutter said of the national Boy Scouts: "As an African American, I'm deeply disappointed that any organization would engage in discriminatory practices while at the same time trying to serve the interests of young people. It's interesting to me that the Girl Scouts have figured out how to serve all girls, but the Boy Scouts have not. In America, all of us should be committed to ending discrimination anywhere and everywhere."
Mark Segal, publisher of the Philadelphia Gay News, said the national Boy Scouts' renewed commitment to excluding gays was ridiculously outdated, especially since the U.S. military no longer bars gays.
"As a former Boy Scout, I am saddened by their outrageous and un-American behavior," Segal said of the national Boy Scouts.
Segal encouraged the city to sell the Cradle of Liberty property, at 22d and Winter Streets, two blocks west of the Franklin Institute, to the highest bidder. A new owner could evict the Boy Scouts, he said, which the city cannot do.
The national Boy Scouts, under growing public pressure, in 2010 formed a committee of 11 "volunteers and professional leaders to evaluate whether the policy was in the best interests of the organization," the statement released Tuesday said. The committee "included a diversity of perspectives" and engaged in "extensive research and evaluations," the statement said. The existence of the committee had been kept secret until now, and the Scouts declined to reveal its membership or methods.
The official policy reads: "While the BSA does not proactively inquire about the sexual orientation of employees, volunteers or members, we do not grant membership to individuals who are open or avowed homosexuals or who engage in behavior that would become a distraction to the mission of the BSA."
In 2000, in a 5-4 decision, the U.S. Supreme Court upheld the right of the Boy Scouts to expel a gay assistant scoutmaster, saying that as a private organization, it had the right to decide what values it wanted to inculcate.
In April, Jennifer Tyrrell, a lesbian parent in Ohio, was forced out as a den mother of her son's Tiger Scouts group because of her sexual orientation. More than 300,000 people have signed an online petition, circulated by Change.org, to reinstate her.
Two members of the Boy Scouts' executive board, James S. Turley, chairman and chief executive of Ernst & Young, and Randall L. Stephenson, chairman and chief executive of AT&T, have recently said they would push to end the exclusion policy.
Turley declined to comment on Tuesday's announcement. An AT&T spokesman reissued a previous statement saying: "We don't agree with every policy of every organization we support, nor would we expect them to agree with us on everything. Our belief is that change at any organization must come from within to be successful and sustainable."
Inquirer staff writer Bob Moran contributed to this article.