More than 60 percent of the delegates attending the annual national meeting of the Boy Scouts of America in Grapevine, Texas, voted for the historic policy change on Thursday.
The ban on gay adult leaders remains.
“No youth may be denied membership in the Boy Scouts of America on the basis of sexual orientation or preference alone,” the approved resolution says.
The vote follows months of intense debate about the Scouts' long-standing ban on gays, and Thursday’s decision is likely to trigger many exits from the faith-based organization.
A Boy Scouts online survey of about 200,000 members, parents and leaders showed overwhelming support for maintaining the 103-year-old ban, by a margin of almost 2-1.
Some bloggers expressed disappointment that the ban on openly gay adult leaders remained in place.
@SophiaKris: "So you're going to help gay boys become excellent leaders when they're #scouts but tell them they're not to fit to lead as adults? Not OK #BSA
The issue of gay scouts has been a polarizing issue in the U.S. Gay rights activists and conservative groups descended on Grapefine ahead of the vote in the hope of persuading the 1,400 delegates to support their respective positions.