The Winston-Salem Journal                     April 4, 2004


Groups hold competing rallies on Scout policy
12 protest ban
on gay members while others show support

By Brian Louis, Journal Reporter

The two sides in the debate over the Boy Scouts of America's ban on openly gay members and leaders held small, competing rallies yesterday in front of the Old Hickory Council's headquarters on Silas Creek Parkway.

Twelve protesters demonstrated against the policy and carried signs, including some that said "Hate is not morally straight" and "Scouting for all." "The policy is not a Boy Scout thing to do," said Matt Hill, a senior at Reynolds High School, who organized the protest.

Hill, 18, said he was forced out of his Boy Scout troop in Winston-Salem about four years ago after he openly said he was gay and founded Students Promoting Equality, Awareness & Knowledge, formerly the Gay/Straight Alliance, at Reynolds. Yesterday's rally was the third protest against Scout policy that Hill has organized in Winston-Salem in recent years.

Hill's friend Molly Miller, 18, said she was shocked that he was forced out of the Boy Scouts. "I don't think they should be able to discriminate," said Miller, who went to the rally to support him. "I never thought they would do something like that."

Hill said he would "love to get back in the organization" and he'd like to be a Scout leader some day and give back what the Boy Scouts have given him. He joined the Scouts in fifth grade.

Meanwhile, on the other side of the driveway leading into the region's Scouting headquarters, about 30 demonstrators supporting the Boy Scouts' policy held such signs as "God bless the Scouts," "Honk for the Boy Scouts," and "God made Adam & Eve, not Adam & Steve."

The counter-protesters were organized by Vernon Robinson, a member of the Winston-Salem City Council and candidate for the Republican nomination for the 5th Congressional District. The Boy Scout oath says that a Scout will do his best to "keep myself physically strong, mentally awake and morally straight." Robinson said that "homosexuality is inconsistent with being morally straight."

Dennis Cheek, 49, of Winston-Salem said he was there to support the Boy Scouts' right to set their own policies.

He held a sign that said "God bless the Boy Scouts."

He said that opponents of the Boy Scouts' policy "have the freedom to form their own group." The issue of gays in the Boy Scouts gained widespread publicity in a lawsuit that ended up being decided by the U.S. Supreme Court.

In 2000, the high court ruled that the Boy Scouts, as a private group, has the right to ban gays as leaders.

Steve Wilburn, the scout executive with the Old Hickory Council of the Boy Scouts, which covers the Winston-Salem area, said that the group didn't have a problem with the demonstrators outside. He said that the Boy Scouts organization respects the rights of both groups to express themselves.

He also reiterated the Boy Scouts' policy banning gays, saying that "we don't believe homosexual behavior is consistent with the values and ideals of the Scout oath and Scout law."

Brian Louis can be reached at 727-7378 or at

Transcribed to computer file: December 12, 2004