Navy To Name Ship After Gay Rights Activist Harvey Milk

| by Katie Landoll
Harvey Milk at his desk in city hall, 1978.Harvey Milk at his desk in city hall, 1978.

The U.S. Navy plans to name a new oiler ship after gay activist and politician Harvey Milk.

Milk was one of the first openly gay people elected to public office in the U.S., according to the Harvey Milk Foundation. The foundation calls Milk’s 1977 election to the San Francisco Board of Supervisors an “important and symbolic victory for the LGBT community.”

As city supervisor, Milk successfully campaigned against a number of initiatives targeting gay people, including a proposition that would have mandated the firing of all gay public school teachers in the California.

Milk encouraged other gay people to fight openly for political and social equality.

“Gay people, we will not win our rights by staying quietly in our closets,” Milk said in one of his speeches. “We are coming out to fight the lies, the myths, the distortions ... For I am tired of the conspiracy of silence, so I’m going to talk about it. And I want you to talk about it. You must come out.”

In November of 1978, less than one year into Milk’s term as supervisor, a disgruntled former supervisor named Dan White fatally shot Milk and San Francisco Mayor George Moscone in City Hall. The killings sparked candlelight vigils and silent marches within the city and across the country.

Navy secretary Ray Mabus signed a congressional notification announcing the plans for the new oiler on July 14, reports CNN.

The ship is to be commissioned as part of the John Lewis class of oilers. The class is named after Rep. John Lewis, a Georgia civil rights leader, and the Navy intends to name all ships in the class after leaders of various civil rights movements, including Earl Warren, Robert F. Kennedy, Sojourner Truth and Lucy Stone, among others.

Milk served in the Korean War as a diving officer in San Diego from 1951 to 1955, at which time he was honorably discharged. Milk was reportedly wearing his Navy belt buckle when he was shot, according to the U.S. Naval Institute.

Sources: CNNHarvey Milk Foundation, U.S. Naval Institute / Photo Credit: Harvey Milk Foundation

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