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Naval Academy again rejects gay alumni group

Naval Academy again rejects gay alumni group

The governing board of the Naval Academy Alumni Association on Thursday rejected a bid from graduates who sought to establish a predominantly gay and lesbian alumni chapter. It was the second time in two years the Naval Academy's alumni association rejected the gay group, whose members believe it is the first such chapter to seek recognition from a U.S. service academy. "I think when they reject us today, they are making their discrimination clear," said Jeff Petrie, who founded the group. The group has been operating and inducting members for more than a year, even though it does not have the official sanction of the alumni association. Now 68 members strong, it is the only group the association has ever denied affiliation. All 27 trustees who attended the meeting voted to dismiss Petrie's request because, in their words, his group is narrowly tailored to serve a special interest. Other reasons the association gave for rejecting the group include its scattered membership and the location of its headquarters in San Francisco, a region already served by an alumni chapter. The board opposes special-interest chapters because their membership would be exclusive, the association wrote in a news release titled "Naval Academy Alumni Association Reaffirms Commitment to Diversity and Inclusiveness." "Today we received a mixed message and, ironically, were rejected on the premise of diversity," Petrie said. The chapter revamped itself this year in an effort to win recognition. It established its base in San Francisco's predominantly gay Castro district after trustees said last year that new chapters have to be "geographic in nature." The group also rewrote its bylaws to clarify that it doesn't exclude heterosexual graduates, and it inducted its first straight member. Leaders of the association said after the meeting that existing chapters should not and do not discriminate against gay and lesbian alumni, and they urged Castro members to join other alumni chapters. The association cited the larger San Francisco chapter, which is run by a board of directors that includes two openly gay members. "I'm kind of disappointed this is ongoing," Chet Kolley, president of the San Francisco chapter, said Thursday. "We've tried to obviate the need for a special chapter by being as inclusive as we can." Petrie, who also serves as secretary of the larger chapter, says Castro members feel more at home in a group run by gay and lesbian alumni. Castro alumni, who live all over the country, feel that running their own chapter is crucial, he said. "There is discrimination throughout the alumni chapters, and this is our attempt to escape that," he said.

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