GRAPEVINE, Texas – As protesters made one last stand, the Boy Scouts of America’s leadership began a conference Wednesday that was expected to culminate in a long-anticipated vote on whether to allow openly gay Scouts — a decision that, either way, could deeply affect the organization’s membership and funding.

Scouting leaders from around the country gathered at a resort in Grapevine, Texas, near the youth organization’s suburban Dallas headquarters, for their annual national meeting. The three-day meeting is being closely watched because Scout officials have scheduled a vote Thursday on a resolution that would not allow youth Scouts to be excluded based only on sexual orientation. The ban on gay adult leaders would remain in place.

Conservatives and some religious groups have opposed the plan, which is backed by gay-rights supporters. National groups on both sides have organized protests and campaigns to woo the approximately 1,400 members of the national council who will cast ballots.

On the eve of the vote, BSA President Wayne Perry called for voters to approve the resolution.