Harvey Milk: US Navy Launches Ship in Honor of Gay Activist

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A US Navy ship named after gay rights activist Harvey Milk, forced to resign from military service because of his sexual orientation, launched in San Diego on Saturday (6).

The USNS Harvey Milk is a refueling tanker, which refuels aircraft carriers at sea.

“He made a difference. That’s the kind of naval leader we need,” US Navy Secretary Carlos Del Toro said during the christening ceremony.

The ship was co-sponsored by Democratic Senator Dianne Feinstein, who was chairman of the San Francisco Board of Supervisors when Milk served on the board.

She publicly announced Milk’s murder in 1978, at age 48. He was the first openly gay politician elected in the state of California.

The baptism was attended by Milk’s nephew, Stuart Milk, who is co-founder of the Harvey Milk Foundation. Due to Covid-19 protocols, the event was not open to the public.

The USNS Harvey Milk is one of the tankers in a class named after Georgia Congressman and civil rights icon John Lewis, which also includes vessels named after Sojourner Truth, Lucy Stone and Robert F. Kennedy.

Who was Harvey Milk?

Milk served in the Navy as a diving officer during the Korean War, at a time when gay members of the military were not allowed to speak openly about their sexuality.

During his time as a scuba instructor in San Diego in the 1950s, his supervisors picked him up at a popular gay park, according to his nephew Stuart Milk.

In 1955, after the Navy officially questioned him about his sexual orientation, he was forced to resign as a junior lieutenant.

Milk was one of the first openly gay politicians elected to office in the United States and the first openly gay person elected in California.

After moving from New York to California, Milk helped found the Castro Village Association, one of the country’s first predominantly LGBTQ business groups. In 1977, he was elected to the San Francisco Board of Supervisors – equivalent to a City Council.

While serving as city supervisor, Milk introduced legislation to protect the gay community, including a gay rights law in 1978 to prohibit discrimination against LGBTQ in housing or employment.

He and other activists also managed to overturn Proposition 6, which would have ordered the firing of gay or lesbian teachers in California.

Less than a year after Milk was sworn in as city supervisor, he and Mayor George Moscone were shot dead in San Francisco City Hall by a former city supervisor over a job dispute.

When her murderer was sentenced to seven years, riots broke out over what many considered a lenient sentence.

Reference: CNN Brasil

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