Nov 6, 2021 - Politics & Policy

Navy christens ship in honor of gay rights leader Harvey Milk

USNS Harvey Milk departs the General Dynamics NASSCO shipyard after a ceremonial address in San Diego, California on November 6
USNS Harvey Milk departs the General Dynamics NASSCO shipyard after a ceremonial address in San Diego on Nov. 6. Photo: Ariana Drehsler/AFP via Getty Images

The Navy on Saturday christened and launched a ship named for slain gay rights leader Harvey Milk.

Why it matters: Milk served four years in the Navy during the Korean War as a diving officer before he was forced out.

  • He went on to become one of the first openly gay candidates elected to public office when he joined the San Francisco Board of Supervisors in 1977. The following year, he was assassinated alongside San Francisco Mayor George Moscone.

What they're saying: Navy Secretary Carlos Del Toro and Milk's nephew, Stuart Milk, attended the ceremony in San Diego.

  • “For far too long, sailors like Lt. Milk were forced into the shadows or, worse yet, forced out of our beloved Navy,” said Del Toro, per AP.
  • “That injustice is part of our Navy history, but so is the perseverance of all who continue to serve in the face of injustice,” Del Toro added.

The big picture: The Navy’s Military Sealift Command will operate the USNS Harvey Milk, which is the second ship in the Navy's John Lewis class of fleet replenishment oilers, which serve to refuel Navy ships at sea.

  • Former Navy Secretary Ray Mabus in 2016 named six new oilers after civil and human rights leaders. In addition to former Rep. John Lewis, the leaders include Sojourner Truth, Chief Justice Earl Warren, Robert F. Kennedy and suffragist Lucy Stone.
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