By DAN ELLIOTT
DENVER (AP) - Gay and lesbian Air Force Academy graduates plan to maintain a higher profile at events surrounding next month's home football game against Army now that "don't ask, don't tell" has been repealed.
A gay and lesbian alumni group called the Blue Alliance will display a rainbow flag and a Blue Alliance banner at its tailgate party before the Nov. 5 game on the academy campus north of Colorado Springs.
The Blue Alliance's annual dinner, which takes place on campus after the game, is drawing some high-ranking academy officials, including the dean of faculty, Gen. Dana Born, an academy spokesman confirmed Tuesday.
Also planning to attend is Adis Vila, the school's chief diversity officer.
"It's been very gratifying," said Greg Mooneyham, executive director of the Blue Alliance, describing the school's response since the repeal of the ban on gays and lesbian serving openly in the military. "We're very happy about it."
Mooneyham said he expects as many as 30 cadets to attend the dinner, as well as some West Point cadets who'll be on campus for the Army-Air Force game.
The Pentagon formally lifted the 18-year-old ban last month after taking the steps Congress required in a 2010 law to reverse the policy.
That allowed the Association of Graduates, the academy's alumni group with headquarters on campus, to make the Blue Alliance an "affinity group," a chapter based on a common interest rather than geographic location, said Gary Howe, the Association of Graduates executive vice president.
"We embrace any group of people who want to help the academy," Howe said Tuesday.
"What had prevented us from granting affinity group status to the Blue Alliance was simply that they were in opposition to Air Force policy, 'don't ask, don't tell.' Now that 'don't ask, don't tell' has been repealed, we welcome them," Howe said.
Howe plans to attend the Blue Alliance dinner, along with a meeting of the alliance's board of directors.
The alliance had a presence at the academy before the ban was repealed, renting meeting space from the Association of Graduates' on-campus office building and buying a "go Air Force"-type booster ad in the association's magazine, Howe said.
Their participation was legal because they were out of the service and not covered by the ban, he said.
The Blue Alliance planned to hold its 2010 annual dinner at the Association of Graduates office but it had to be moved off campus because academy commanders deemed it to be a political gathering, which is barred on military property, Howe said. Among other things, at least one congressman was expected to attend during an election year and while repeal of "don't ask, don't tell" was being debated in Congress, he said.