San Francisco

Navy to Name Ship After Gay Rights Icon Harvey Milk: Report

The United States Navy will be naming one of their ships after gay rights icon and San Francisco politician Harvey Milk, according to a report by the U.S. Naval Institute, which cites a Congressional notice obtained by USNI News.

The July 14 notice, which was signed by Secretary of the Navy, Ray Mabus, indicates that he plans to name a planned Military Sealift Command fleet oiler, USNS Harvey Milk, according to USNI.

The ship is reportedly being built by General Dynamics NASSCO in San Diego, California.

A Department of the Navy spokesman did not have a comment on the report.

Milk, who moved from New York to settle in San Francisco in the seventies, was elected to the SF Board of Supervisors, becoming the first openly gay person to be elected to public office in California. In 1972, he and his partner Scott Smith – portrayed by James Franco in the film “Milk” – opened Castro Camera on 575 Castro Street, which he operated until his assassination in 1978. His involvement in San Francisco’s gay rights movement earned him the name “Mayor of Castro Street.”

He joined the U.S. Navy during the Korean War and served on the submarine rescue ship USS Kittiwake (ASR-13) as a diving officer in San Diego. Milk came from a Navy family. He was honorably discharged from service as a lieutenant junior grade, according to USNI.

On Nov. 27, 1978, Milk was shot inside San Francisco City Hall. He was wearing his U.S. Navy diver’s belt buckle at the time, according to the report.

Ever since the 2011 repeal of the Department of Defense’s “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy, California lawmakers have pushed to name a ship after Milk.

“This action by the U.S. Secretary of the Navy will further send a green light to all the brave men and women who serve our nation that honesty, acceptance and authenticity are held up among the highest ideals of our military,” Milk’s nephew Stuart Milk told the San Diego LGBT Weekly in 2012.

On Thursday, San Francisco Supervisor Scott Wiener, who signed a resolution urging the Navy to name a ship after Milk, applauded the Navy's apparent decision.

“This is an incredible day for the LGBT community and for our country. As a gay man and a San Franciscan, I'm incredibly proud that the Navy is honoring Harvey Milk — and the entire LGBT community — by naming a ship after him," Weiner said.

"This momentous decision sends a powerful message around the world about who we are as a country and the values we hold," he said. "When Harvey Milk served in the military, he couldn't tell anyone who he truly was. Now our country is telling the men and women who serve, and the entire world, that we honor and support people for who they are. Harvey Milk's strength continues to reverberate throughout our city, our country, and the world.”

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