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Naval Academy alumni group rejects gay, lesbian chapter

ANNAPOLIS, Md. -- The governing board of the Naval Academy Alumni Association yesterday rejected a bid from graduates who sought to establish a predominantly gay and lesbian alumni chapter.

No US service academy has ever officially sanctioned a gay alumni chapter. The Naval Academy's alumni association rejected the gay group last year as well.

''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 claiming 68 members, it is the only group the association has ever denied affiliation.

The association released a list of reasons this week why the request could be rejected. The reasons included the group's scattered membership and the location of its headquarters in San Francisco, a region already served by an alumni chapter.

The association also has emphasized that the group is narrowly tailored to serve a special interest. Skid Heyworth, secretary of the board of trustees, said the association will deny applications from groups focused on a special interest because those chapters would be exclusive.

''The denial means that chapters will continue to be drawn from the membership at large, not from alumni groupings determined by personal characteristics or particularized goals," the association said.

The chapter revamped itself this year in an effort to win recognition. It established its base as the Castro district, a predominantly gay neighborhood of San Francisco, after trustees said last year that new chapters have to be ''geographic in nature."

The group also rewrote its bylaws to clarify that is not solely gay and lesbian, and it has inducted its first heterosexual member.

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