GRAPEVINE, Texas The Boy Scouts of America is throwing open its ranks to gay Scouts but not gay Scout leaders.
Some warn the compromise could fracture the organization and lead to mass defections of members and donors.
Of the roughly 1,400 voting members of the BSA's National Council who cast ballots, 61 percent supported the proposal drafted by the governing Executive Committee. The vote followed what the BSA describes as "the most comprehensive listening exercise in Scouting's history" to gauge opinions.
Calling it "a challenging chapter in our history," BSA chief executive Wayne Brock says, "While people have differing opinions on this policy, kids are better off when they're in Scouting."
Although the policy change takes effect Jan. 1, the bitter debate over the Scouts' membership policy is likely to continue.
Liberal Scout leaders -- while supporting the proposal to accept gay youth -- have made clear they want the ban on gay adults lifted as well.
In contrast, conservatives with the Scouts -- including some churches that sponsor Scout units -- wanted to continue excluding gay youths, in some cases threatening to defect if the ban were lifted.
The meeting of the BSA's National Council is taking place in Texas, where Gov. Rick Perry expressed his dismay with the decision.