The Boy Scouts of America on Thursday voted to allow gay Scout members.
The vote came after increasing pressure from outside and inside the organization to remove the group's ban on openly gay Scouts.
However, the Scouts will continue to ban gay Scout leaders.
The resolution lifting the ban passed 61 percent to 39 percent.
"At first I didn't really know what to say, I thought today was going to be the last day that I was going to be a Boy Scout. There wasn't much else in my future regards to the Boy Scouts of America, but they did prove me wrong," said gay Eagle Scout candidate Pascal Tessier.
"It's an affirmation that change is possible, that we can make progress. My head was saying this was going to change, my heart was saying it wasn't," said Venturing Program member Alex Derr.
Protests over the no-gays policy gained momentum in 2000, when the U.S. Supreme Court upheld it.
Scout units lost sponsorships by public schools and other organizations that followed non-discrimination policies which included homosexuality.
"This is a challenging, complex area. It's a very difficult decision for a lot of people. But we're moving forward together and everyone in our movement agrees on one thing. No matter how you feel about this issue, kids are better off in scouting," said Boy Scouts of America President Wayne Perry.
Around 1,400 national council members cast their ballots on the issue Thursday.
Some leaders who lost their roles in scouting after coming out were pleased, but not overjoyed.
"It signals that the Boy Scouts of America is ready and willing to consider change and perhaps it's going to be measured change and it will happen gradually, but at least they've accepted that gay people are not second class citizens, they're not inferior, that gay youth are welcome in the Boy Scouts of America," said Greg Bourke who is a gay former Scoutmaster.
"We have been in contact with our charter organizations, and our church groups and all the folks who charter scouting in their local communities. We'll be in constant conversation with them, and where we have disagreements and uncomfortable situations, we'll visit with them," said Boy Scouts of American National Commissioner Tico Perez
In a statement, the Boy Scouts said the change is effective Jan. 1, 2014.
Many Scout units in conservative areas fear their local donors will stop giving now that the ban on gay youth is lifted.
KDFW FOX 4
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