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Harvey Milk in his U.S. Navy portrait

Navy to name ship for Harvey Milk

Secretary of the Navy Ray Mabus recently signed a notice confirming plans to name a ship after Harvey Milk, the slain gay civil rights leader who enlisted in the Navy in 1951.

The first openly gay politician to win elected office in California, Milk was also an outspoken activist in the gay liberation movement in San Francisco.

Milk, a member of the San Francisco board of supervisors, and Mayor George Moscone were killed by former Supervisor Dan White in 1978.

When he was assassinated, Milk was wearing his Navy belt buckle.

During the Korean War years, Milk served as a diving officer on the Kittiwake, a submarine rescue ship ported in San Diego. He was a lieutenant, junior grade, at the time of his honorable discharge in 1955.

The campaign to recognize Milk’s military service gained ground in 2011, after the repeal of the ban on openly gay servicemembers.

The Harvey Milk Foundation and the International Imperial Court System, led by Nicole Murray Ramirez, championed the cause.

“To me, this will be a salute from America acknowledging the service and history of our LGBT service people since the Revolutionary War,” Murray Ramirez recently told the San Diego LGBT Weekly.

Murray Ramirez is a San Diego city commissioner and a board member of the National LGBTQ Task Force in Washington, D.C.

“This is a fitting tribute to the extraordinary work of Harvey Milk,” said Russell Roybal, deputy executive director of the task force. “It also recognizes the many LGBT people who have served and are serving in the military. We deeply thank our colleagues at the Imperial Court … for their ceaseless work to make this tribute happen.”

The Navy has yet to issue a naming announcement, but Mabus officially came on board when he signed the July 14 notice to the House and Senate armed services committees.

The USNS Harvey Milk will be a Military Sealift Command fleet oiler in a class of vessels named after another civil rights leader, U.S. Rep. John Lewis, D-Ga.

Mabus also intends to name ships:

• USNS Earl Warren for the late Supreme Court justice.

• USNS Robert F. Kennedy for the late U.S. senator and attorney general.

• USNS Lucy Stone for the late women’s rights activist.

• USNS Sojourner Truth for the late abolitionist and women’s rights advocate.

Already Mabus has named ships for Medgar Evers and Cesar Chavez.

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