The U.S. Navy is poised to name a ship after American politician and gay rights activist Harvey Milk, according to a newly-released report.
The planned name was revealed by U.S. Naval Institute News, which obtained a July 14 order by Navy Secretary Ray Mabus in which he declares his intent to name a new Navy fleet oiler the USNS Harvey Milk. This ship is part of the John Lewis class of oilers, all of which the Navy plans to name after civil rights leaders. Other planned names in the class include Chief Justice Earl Warren, Sen. Robert F. Kennedy, and abolitionist Sojourner Truth.
Milk was the first openly-gay politician ever elected to public office in the U.S., serving on the San Francisco board of supervisors for ten months in 1978 before he was assassinated by Dan White, a disaffected supervisor who had recently resigned and wanted his job back.
But before entering politics, a closeted Milk served in the U.S. Navy during the Korean War. Until 2011, it was illegal for openly-gay individuals to serve in the military, and a ban on transgender individuals was only repealed this year. Since the end of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell, gay rights activists have been pushing to honor Milk by naming a ship for him, though others have argued such a move was unsuitable as Milk was a vocal critic of the Vietnam War.
The new ship was hailed as a big step forward in making the military more gay-friendly.
“We are making real progress in an institution that has historically tended to be homophobic,” San Francisco supervisor Scott Wiener, who is gay, told SFGate. “Naming a ship after our great LGBT leader speaks volumes about where this country is and where this president is.”
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