The Associated Press
GRAPEVINE, Texas -- The Boy Scouts of America threw open its ranks Thursday to gay Scouts but not gay Scout leaders -- a fiercely contested compromise that some warned could fracture the organization and lead to mass defections of members and donors.
Of the 1,400 local Scout leaders voting at the annual meeting of the BSA's National Council in Texas, more than 60 percent supported the proposal. The policy change takes effect Jan. 1.
"While people have different opinions about this policy, we can all agree that kids are better off when they are in Scouting," the BSA said after announcing the results at the council's annual meeting near Dallas.
Some conservative churches that sponsor Scout units wanted to continue excluding gay youths, and in some cases threatened to leave the BSA if the ban were lifted.
More liberal Scout leaders -- while supporting the proposal to accept gay youth -- wanted the ban on gay adults lifted as well.
The BSA could also take a hit financially. Many Scout units in conservative areas feared their local donors would stop giving if the ban on gay youth were lifted, while many major corporate donors were likely to withhold donations if the ban had remained.
In January, the BSA executive committee suggested a plan to give sponsors of local Scout units the option of admitting gays as both youth members and adult leaders or continuing to exclude them.
However, the plan won little praise, and the BSA changed course after assessing responses to surveys sent out starting in February to members of the Scouting community. The BSA's overall "traditional youth membership" -- Cub Scouts, Boy Scouts and Venturers -- is now about 2.6 million, compared with more than 4 million in peak years of the past. It also has about 1 million adult leaders and volunteers.