The Navy Will Name a Ship After This Gay Rights Icon

July 29, 2016, 9:40 PM UTC
Harvey Milk
Photograph by Bettmann Archive

In the most recent sign of LGBT inclusion in the U.S. military, the navy has decided to name a new ship after San Francisco politician Harvey Milk.

Secretary of the Navy Ray Mabus signed a congressional notification earlier this month, saying that the navy intended to name a fleet oiler after the San Francisco supervisor who was assassinated in 1978, US Naval Institute News reported on Thursday.

The fleet oiler is one in a series of six that Mabus said would be named after civil rights leaders. The fleet oiler will bring supplies and oil to other naval ships at sea.

In 1977, Milk became the first openly gay politician to be elected to office in California. Before turning to politics, he served as a diving officer with the Navy from 1951 until 1955, when he was honorably discharged as a Lieutenant junior grade.


During the period that Milk served in the Navy, gay sailors were shunned, harassed, or given dishonorable discharges. In 1993 President Bill Clinton signed into law the “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy, which allowed gay, lesbian, and bisexual individuals to serve in the military, as long as they kept their sexual orientation under wraps.

Then in late 2010, President Barack Obama formally signed the repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” into law, effectively allowing gay, bisexual, and lesbian individuals to serve openly in the military. In June, the Pentagon announced that it would lift the ban on transgender people serving in the military.

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