U.S. Navy Launches Ship Named After Slain Gay Rights Leader Harvey Milk

The United States Navy has launched a ship named after slain gay rights leader Harvey Milk on Nov. 6 after more than 70 years since he was discharged due to his sexuality.

“For far too long, sailors like Lieutenant Milk were forced into the shadows or, worse yet, forced out of our beloved Navy,” U.S. Navy Secretary Carlos del Toro said at the christening ceremony of the ship in San Diego, California.

“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 further said.

The ship is the second in the John Lewis replenishment oiler class.

The ship is also one of six new ships dedicated to prominent civil rights leaders, including abolitionist Sojourner Truth, suffragist Lucy Stone, and slain presidential candidate Robert Kennedy.

Milk served in the U.S. Navy for four years, including during the Korean War, as a diving officer in the 1950s. The Navy discharged him after they questioned his sexuality.

Milk was then elected into the San Francisco Board of Supervisors in 1977, becoming the first openly gay elected official in California and one of the first openly gay politicians in the U.S. However, former city supervisor Dan White assassinated Milk a year later.

Milk’s nephew, Stuart, who co-founded the Harvey Milk Foundation, said at the ceremony that one of his uncle’s dream was “for service members to serve with authenticity and not be forced to hide who they were and who they love.”

San Diego Mayor Todd Gloria also attended the ceremony and called Milk “a beacon of hope not just for LGBTQ people, but all Americans.”

“Now, this ship will serve as a symbol of hope for the world to see,” Gloria said.

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