Note: The following article refers to "Matthew Hill." Due to family concerns, Matt Comer changed his last name during college. For more information, contact Matt at

The Chronicle Winston-Salem, NC             Thursday, March 25, 2004


Booted gay Scout planning protest

By Courtney Gaillard


Matthew Hill was months away from earning his Eagle badge when he was kicked out of Boy Scout Troop 715 for acknowledging he was gay in 2000. Now Hill is a senior at R.J. Reynolds High School and he is organizing a picket outside of the Old Hickory Council’s office in response to the organization’s membership policy.


The Old Hickory Council is the governing body of the Boy Scout troops in Northwestern North Carolina.


For Hill, the Boy Scouts were a guiding force during his formative years when an abusive father was absent from his life.


“This is not an anti-Boy Scout thing because I still consider myself a Boy Scout, I may not be a member like I want to be. I’m not trying to destroy the Boy Scouts. I would just like to see their membership policies changed so that all boys and adults can be a part of this organization that helps so many, so many people,” said Hill, who has urged United Way of Forsyth County to stop funding the Old Hickory Council because of its practices.


Hill was a Boy Scout for three years before he revealed his sexual orientation. His disclosure came before the Supreme Court ruled that the Boys (sic) Scouts of America could set its own membership standards as a private organization, which means that lawfully the organization can bar gays. Hill claims that he was unaware of the ruling and says that there was no policy on gays being banned from the Boy Scouts in the Boy Scouts Handbook.


Hill is also affiliated with Triad Scouting for All, a network of activists who seek the end of discrimination in the Boy Scouts. Scouting for All has held rallies and protests of the council in the past few years and is sponsoring the next protest in April.


The Boy Scouts of America’s stance on homosexual members is expressed on the National Council’s Web site: “We believe an avowed homosexual is not a role model for the values espoused in the Scout Oath and Law.”


“Disagreements within my Boy Scout troop did not start until the fall of 2000 when I started a gay/straight alliance at Reynolds,” said Hill, who was dismissed from his scouting program shortly after he founded SPEAK (Students Promoting Equality [Awareness] & Knowledge). According to Hill, Troop 715 did not follow the policy for dismissing a Scout, which calls for discussions with a Scout’s parents or family minister. He says those discussions never took place. “One of my Scout leaders talked to me and said that the (Old Hickory) council would be voting on my membership status….It scared me and I didn’t go back to any Scout meetings until December and a scoutmaster told me that if I were to choose to live the gay lifestyle, then I was choosing not to be a Boy Scout.”


The Old Hickory Council respects Hill’s right to express his opinion and hold a peaceful protest, says Steve Wilburn, a Scout executive with the council, but the council won’t revise its membership standards set forth by the Boy Scouts of America.


“We are a private organization and we do set our own membership standards,” said Wilburn, who says he is willing to meet with Hill regarding the matter. “The values that we embrace in the open Scout law are reflective of the values that the majority of Americans believe. The Boy Scouts of America feels that homosexual conduct is inconsistent with those values.”


The Boy Scout Oath reads, “On my honor I will do my best to do my duty to God and my country and to obey the Scout Law; to help other people at all times; to keep myself physically strong, mentally awake and morally straight.”


Both Hill and Wilburn have been unable to determine exactly who decided on his dismissal from the Boy Scouts. But Hill was told by former council executive Hal Murray that it must have been a troop decision. Many friends and even fellow Scouts support Hill but none has been willing to go public with support as of yet.


“There’s never been any full open support, and I don’t blame anybody for that because you’re dealing with 14- and 15-year old boys who saw the harassment that I was getting from other boys. I wouldn’t blame them if they kept their mouths shut because they don’t want to receive the same harassment even if they weren’t gay,” Hill said.


Although he doesn’t think it’s very likely, Hill would like to see the Old Hickory Council adopt a more inclusive membership policy. He would also like the council to formally apologize for kicking him out of Boy Scout Troop 715.


“Scouting gave me a purpose. It kept me busy. I learned so many things in the Boy Scouts,” said Hill. “The Boy Scouts teach you so many things about life, the law and (how to be loyal and trustworthy. The things you learn in Boy Scouts are life lessons that you carry with you for the rest of your life.”


Hill will conduct an informational meeting concerning the upcoming protest of the Old Hickory Council on March 30 at 7 p.m. at Trinity Presbyterian Church, 1416 Bolton Street. For more information visit [website no longer active]


Transcribed to computer file December 11, 2005.