A group of 66 homosexual graduates of the U.S. Naval Academy announced yesterday that it has resumed efforts to start a national chapter of gay graduates that would be recognized by the college's alumni association.
The Veterans Day announcement came exactly one year after the group's first formal request, which was unanimously rejected by the Annapolis-based alumni association's board last December for reasons that included geographic disparity.
Jeff Petrie, secretary of the San Francisco-based group, said yesterday that he and other gay alumni have spent the past year revising their application to meet the academy's standards for approval.
The group - which has changed its name from USNA Out to the Castro Chapter, after the predominantly gay Castro section of San Francisco - resubmitted its application in April, in time to be considered at the academy's Dec. 2 board of trustees meeting.
Petrie said he is cautiously hopeful that with a new application - and a membership that has more than doubled since last year - the proposed chapter will be approved.
"Last year, the Board of Trustees said our sexuality was never considered in their decision to reject us," Petrie, a 1989 academy graduate who last year began recruiting members from an unofficial group, the Service Academy Gay and Lesbian Alumni, said in a news release. "Now we get to put that statement to the test."
If the alumni association approves the application, the decision would be historic and controversial - marking the first formal recognition of a gay group by any military service academy.
Skid Heyworth, spokesman for the academy's alumni association, confirmed yesterday that the group resubmitted its application in time to be considered at the board's next meeting.
Adding that he has not yet reviewed the application, Heyworth declined to comment on its content or prospects for approval.
"I feel comfortable saying that the group has had their application in for a while, but I have not seen it yet," Heyworth said.
Looking back to the board's initial rejection of the group, Heyworth cited what he called the academy's "bonding" requirements for alumni chapters, including that they be grouped in the same geographic area. The association also found that the group was too exclusive and focused on a special interest.
Petrie said in a telephone interview yesterday that he hopes the group has overcome these objections by establishing a base in San Francisco, home to a larger alumni chapter, and inviting heterosexual members to join.
Aaron C. Belkin, director of the Center for the Study of Sexual Minorities in the Military, a research center at the University of California, Santa Barbara, said he thinks the group has succeeded in revising its application to meet the academy's standards.
"The alumni association said they don't recognize groups unless they are based in one place," he said. "Now, I don't see any plausible reason for a rejection."
No matter what the board decides Dec. 2, Petrie said, the Castro Chapter vows to continue its fight to be recognized.