Gay academy alumni seek anti-bias policy

Graduate association board insists no such action is needed

Maryland

November 29, 2005|By JAMIE STIEHM | JAMIE STIEHM,SUN REPORTER

In the latest round of an ongoing skirmish, a group of gay U.S. Naval Academy graduates is pressing the academy's alumni association to approve an anti-discrimination policy when its board of trustees meets Thursday - a step the association rejects as unnecessary.

Jeff Petrie of San Francisco, a 1989 graduate, said yesterday that he and others plan to attend the board meeting in Alumni Hall to make the point - if only as silent observers - that some homosexual and transgender academy graduates favor having an explicit policy written into the 51,000- member alumni association's bylaws.

"Our end objective is happy friendship and full participation," Petrie said. For now, he added, "There is perceived discrimination. Some [gays] hesitate to go to social functions. ... We would like to participate fully and bring our partners to events. Like all academy alumni, we deserve equal treatment."

The nonprofit U.S. Naval Academy Alumni Association, based in Annapolis, noted that it is legally separate from the Department of Defense, which has a "don't ask, don't tell" policy that allows gay men and women to serve in the military if they do not disclose their sexual orientation.

Welcoming stance

In fact, alumni association spokesman Lawrence Heyworth III said yesterday, the stance of the association toward gay members is welcoming: "Come in - we don't care what your sexual orientation is."

Heyworth said the formal request - an appeal of a decision by the board earlier this year - will not be considered by the board Thursday because the agenda is full. The group that made the application is USNA Out, made up mostly of gay and lesbian alumni and headed by Petrie.

Last year, the alumni association rejected a similar effort by Petrie and others to form an official national chapter, saying they need to be geographically based and cannot focus on a special interest. Even as he challenges the membership and chapter policies, Petrie said he belongs to the San Francisco-based alumni association chapter.

"I volunteer to show my good faith, that I love my alma mater and to help move it forward," he said.

Risk of expulsion

Under Pentagon policy, midshipmen could face expulsion for revealing they are gay. But Heyworth noted that civilian academy alumni face no harm or social sanction for such disclosures.

"Gay men, lesbians, transgender individuals are all welcome to join," he said. "We have consistently walked the line of an inclusive organization."

jamie.stiehm@baltsun.com

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