The governing board of the Naval Academy Alumni Association on Friday unanimously rejected a bid by 32 graduates to establish the first official gay and lesbian alumni chapter of any U.S. service academy. The board of trustees released a memorandum saying they denied the application because it was based too specifically on a special interest, its membership would be too exclusive, and it wasn't centered on a geographical area. "I know that there are people who are part of the board of trustees who don't have open minds toward recognizing gays and lesbians," said Jeff Petrie, a 1989 Naval Academy graduate who organized the effort to establish a gay chapter. "I think as time passes, those feelings will fade away and we'll eventually be accepted."
Petrie, however, noted that the association has, in fact, extended official recognition to at least one alumni chapter that is based on common interest and not geography--the "Recreational Vehicle" chapter. There is no appeal process for the organizers of USNA Out, but they aren't barred from filing their application again, said Skid Heyworth, vice president of communications for the military college's alumni association. Petrie said his group has not yet decided whether to reapply.
The rejection sends a message to gay men and women in the military that they are not considered equal, said Aaron Belkin, director of the Center for the Study of Sexual Minorities in the Military at the University of California, Santa Barbara. "It's a signal that the military is still on the wrong side of history, and that they are continuing to refuse to recognize gay sailors who risked their lives for their country," Belkin said. Naval Academy alumni are able to join the Service Academy Gay and Lesbian Alumni Association, a 150-member alumni association that isn't officially sanctioned by any of the military academies. Many of its members are anonymous.