US Navy building ship to be named after Harvey Milk


harvey milk us navy ship
Photos: King Library Digital Collections/US Navy

The US Navy has begun construction on a ship they’ll name after pioneering gay activist Harvey Milk, decades after he was driven out for his homosexuality.

Milk served in the US Navy as a diving instructor in the 1950s in California. However his supervisors caught him at a park popular with gay men, according to nephew Stuart Milk.

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In 1955, the Navy officially questioned him about his sexual orientation. Milk was then made to resign with an honourable discharge.

More than six decades later, the Navy is beginning construction on the USNS Harvey Milk. The vessel will be a new oiler ship to resupply fuel to other ships at sea.

LGBTIQ advocates and others began urging the secretary of the Navy to name a ship after Milk in 2012, with the Navy agreeing in 2016.

“[The ship] sends a global message of inclusion more powerful than simply ‘We’ll tolerate everyone,'” Stuart Milk told the San Diego Union-Tribune.

“[It says] ‘We celebrate everyone’.”

Changes in the US Navy since Harvey Milk’s service

Milk moved to San Francisco in 1972, where he lived in the Castro district. Milk owned a camera shop in the growing queer neighborhood and advocated for LGBTIQ rights.

In 1977, he won his election to the San Francisco board of supervisors, becoming the first openly gay elected official in California. He was assassinated one year later.

In 1993, US President Bill Clinton signed the “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy. It banned discrimination but also stopped LGBTIQ people from serving openly.

President Barack Obama repealed the policy in 2011.

However in April, the Trump administration’s policy banning transgender recruits began.

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