July 29, 2016 at 12:21 pm EDT | by Lou Chibbaro Jr.
U.S. Navy to name ship after Harvey Milk
Harvey Milk, Stuart Milk, USPS, United States Postal Service, Nancy Pelosi, John Lewis, Tammy Baldwin, Ronald Stroman, Samantha Power, gay news, Washington Blade

The U.S. Postal Service unveiled the Harvey Milk stamp in 2014. (Washington Blade file photo by Michael Key)

The U.S. Navy has decided to name a ship after the late LGBT civil rights leader and San Francisco Supervisor Harvey Milk, according to a congressional notification signed by Secretary of the Navy Ray Mabus.

U.S. Navy Institute News, an independent publication unaffiliated with the Navy, broke the news about the Navy’s plans to name a ship after Milk on Thursday after it says it obtained a copy of the congressional notification.

The publication reports that Mabus indicated the ship would be a Military Sealift Command fleet oiler called USNS Harvey Milk and would be built by the General Dynamics Corporation in San Diego.

“Harvey Milk is an American hero and an icon for LGBT equality, and it’s phenomenal that the U.S. Navy is going to honor his legacy by naming a ship after him,” said Ashley Broadway-Mack, president of the American Military Partnership Association, the nation’s largest organization of LGBT military families.

“Harvey Milk’s incredible leadership in the face of adversity continues to inspire all of us in our ongoing fight for full LGBT equality,” Broadway Mack said in a statement. “By breaking down barriers and fighting for the dignity and worth of all Americans, he left behind an example for all of us in his service to our nation, both in and out of uniform.”

USNI News reports a chapter in Milk’s life that isn’t well known among many in the LGBT community. It says he became a commissioned officer in the Navy in 1951.

“He served as a diving officer in San Diego during the Korean War on the submarine rescue ship Kittiwake until 1955,” the publication says. “Milk was honorably discharged from the service as a lieutenant junior grade,” it says.

“The Secretary of the Navy’s office is deferring releasing additional information until the naming announcement, USNI News reported a Navy official as saying on Thursday.

Oilers are a class of Navy ships that deliver fuel to other naval ships and in some cases jet fuel to aircraft carriers at sea so that the larger ships, including battle ships, don’t have to return to port for refueling.

Mabus announced in January that the first in a new class of oilers planned for the Navy would be named after U.S. Rep. John Lewis (D-Ga.) as part of his ongoing practice of naming ships after famous U.S. civil rights leaders. Other ships have been named after famed civil rights activists Medgar Evers and Cesar Chavez.

Lou Chibbaro Jr. has reported on the LGBT civil rights movement and the LGBT community for more than 30 years, beginning as a freelance writer and later as a staff reporter and currently as Senior News Reporter for the Washington Blade. He has chronicled LGBT-related developments as they have touched on a wide range of social, religious, and governmental institutions, including the White House, Congress, the U.S. Supreme Court, the military, local and national law enforcement agencies and the Catholic Church. Chibbaro has reported on LGBT issues and LGBT participation in local and national elections since 1976. He has covered the AIDS epidemic since it first surfaced in the early 1980s. Follow Lou

  • That is somewhat good news. But it is important that pioneering heroes of America’s LGBT civil rights movement be recognized in a significant, respectful way.

    I believe Harvey Milk deserves something far greater than what amounts to a mere Sealift Command tanker ship. That is almost insulting.

    Certainly, in addition to his house, an appropriate and significant *FEDERAL* office building in DC should be named after Frank Kameny.

    Likewise, Leonard Matlovich ought to have a significant building at the Air Force Academy– as well as a memorial in the DC Area recognizing the service of Matlvich and countless LGBT airmen and USAF/AIr Corps service members before DADT was repealed.
    The publication reports that Mabus indicated the ship would be a Military Sealift Command fleet oiler called USNS Harvey Milk and would be built by the General Dynamics Corporation in San Diego.**

  • I’m pleased to see this article on the naming of the ship, but a few details are missing which are quite relevant. The naming of the ship came about due to a campaign of the International Court System in partnership with the Harvey Milk Foundation and the Task Force. This was the same team of folks which campaigned for and brought the Harvey Milk Stamp. The Navy didn’t name this ship out of the kindness of their hearts, it was due to the concerted efforts of passionate GLBT leaders seeking it. Any article about either the ship or the stamp, should recognize those organizations hard work. http://impcourt.org/special-interests-projects/harvey-milk/harvey-milk-ship-campaign

  • What we should have is a monument and museum honoring all GLBT Heroes and our history somewhere in DC where people from all the around the world can come to see it. Amsterdam and Berlin have something like that. Why can’t we have it, too? Everyone should understand how difficult it was for us in this country and how despite our progress we have a long way to go. It should be a place where our culture can be celebrated, too and stand for a beacon of freedom and hope to other GLBT around the world that continue to suffer persecution and discrimination in their countries! It could serve as an international community center where presentation can be made.

    That museum should also highlight our enemies and what indignities and assaults they’ve made us endure along the way. This will serve as a reminder to present and future generations not to take our rights for granted, the price and struggle paid for them and how we always are under threat of losing them!

  • Frank Kameny, contra to the Harvey Milk momentum and hipness, was the “Rosa Parks, Thurgood Marshall and Martin Luther King” of the LGBT civil rights movement ( Professor William Eskridge) no matter how you slice it , or rewrite it. I agree with one of the comments here that an important Federal building should be named for him. The main thing is that we not erase or delete his amazing achievements in the face of the Harvey Milk stamp and ship and movie and whatever. History will not allow that; visit the Library of Congress and read the Kameny Papers for a few hours….and be aware of what really happened.

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