US Navy launches ship to commemorate gay rights activist Harvey Milk

The U.S. Navy held a ceremony on Saturday christening and launching a ship in San Diego that commemorates LGBT activist and icon Harvey Milk.

“The secretary of the Navy needed to be here today not just to amend the wrongs of the past but to give inspiration to all of our LGBTQ community leaders who served in the Navy, in uniform today and in the civilian workforce as well too and to tell them that we’re committed to them in the future,” Navy Secretary Carlos Del Toro said during the ceremony. 

Milk, who served as a diving officer in the Navy during the Korean War, had been forced to leave the military branch because he was gay. He later became the first openly gay politician in California to be elected after he joined the San Francisco Board of Supervisors in the late 1970s. 

A year after he was elected to the San Francisco Board of Supervisors, he was killed by his colleague Dan White. 

Then-Navy Secretary Ray Mabus in 2016 made a decision that Milk and five other human rights and civil rights icons would have their names used for six oil tankers that were built, according to The Associated Press.  

Honoring the late human rights activist, the Navy commemorated a John Lewis-class replenishment oil tanker as USNS Harvey Milk on Saturday. 

“Our force is stronger for the service of the many great members of the LGBTQ community who wear our uniform or work in our civilian ranks around the world and around the clock,” Del Toro said.

“Today we’re celebrating something much bigger than tolerance. What we’re celebrating today is that the Navy not only recognizes but honors those. So there’s a difference between tolerance and celebration,” Stuart Milk, a nephew of Harvey Milk and co-founder of the Harvey Milk Foundation, said during the ceremony.

“So this Navy ship sends an important message to the world,” he added.  

Tags Carlos Del Toro gay rights Harvey Milk John Lewis LGBT activism LGBT rights Navy

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