The US Navy is to name a ship after the assassinated gay rights activist and politician Harvey Milk, according to a Congressional notification obtained by USNI News.
Milk entered military service in 1951 and served as a diving officer in San Diego during the Korean War, before being honorably discharged in 1955. He went on to become the first openly gay man elected to be elected to public office when he was elected to San Francisco’s board of supervisors in 1977.
He was killed by a disgruntled former city supervisor, alongside San Francisco Mayor George Moscone, in 1978. At the time he was shot he was reportedly wearing his US Navy diver’s belt buckle.
His life was immortalized in a 2008, Oscar-winning film starring Sean Penn.
Campaigners have been calling for the US Navy to honor him since the repeal of the military’s Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell policy towards gay staff in 2011.
USNI News say the Congressional notification carrying the news about Milk was dated 14 July and signed by Secretary of the Navy Ray Mabus. The ship will be a Military Sealift Command fleet oiler to be called USNS Harvey Milk (T-AO-206).
Although the Navy has not formerly made an announcement, it has previously been announced that a new line of underway replenishment oilers will be named after civil rights leaders.
The first to be announced was the USNS John Lewis, named after civil rights activist and congressman Rep. John Lewis.
Alongside Milk, other new ships to be announced will include the USNS Earl Warren (Supreme Court Chief Justice), USNS Robert F. Kennedy (former Attorney General) and USNS Sojourner Truth (after the women’s right activist).
San Diego City Commissioner Nicole Murray Ramirez, an LGBT and Latino rights activist, has been one of those campaigning for Milk to be honored.
‘I’m truly overwhelmed with emotion at the news,’ she told San Diego LGBT Weekly, ‘because coming from a military family – a father served in the Army and a gay brother who served in the Navy – to me this will be a salute from America acknowledging the service and history of our LGBT service people since the revolutionary war.’