Pascal Tessier, an openly gay 16-year-old Boy Scout from Maryland, had mixed emotions after the vote.
"I was thinking that today could be my last day as a Boy Scout," he said. "Obviously, for gay Scouts like me, this vote is life-changing."
Tessier is on track to receive his Eagle Scout award — he only needs to complete his final project — but said he is troubled that on his 18th birthday he could transform from someone holding Scouting's highest rank to someone unfit to be a part of the organization.
"That one couple hours (between 17 and 18) will make me not a good person," he said.
James Dale, 42, who was the first person to challenge the Boy Scouts gay ban in court, agreed, calling the decision "a bit of a step backward" for gay youth.
"It sends a very convoluted, mixed message to gay kids. It says that being gay is a youthful indiscretion, and that there's no future for you," Dale, of New Jersey, told The Star-Ledger.
Dale sued the Boy Scouts in 1990 after he was removed as an assistant scoutmaster because of his sexual orientation. The U.S. Supreme Court ruled in a 5-4 decision that the organization was within its rights to ban gays.
Tessier has indeed been an exception — an openly gay Scout whose presence was quietly accepted by local Scout leaders. In general, the Scouts' policy has been to avoid any questioning of would-be Scouts as to their sexual orientation, but to dismiss boys who did speak openly about being gay.
For example, Scout officials refused to grant the Eagle Scout rank to Ryan Andresen, an 18-year-old Californian, after he came out as gay last year.
The vote followed what the BSA described as "the most comprehensive listening exercise in Scouting's history" to gauge opinions, including a survey sent out starting in February to members of the Scouting community.