The U.S. Navy has launched the second ship of a new class of tanker ships named after gay rights activist Harvey Milk at San Diego Harbor on Saturday.
“Leading personalities like Harvey Milk have shown us that the diversity of life paths and experiences contributes to the strength and determination of our nation. There is no doubt that the sailors on board will be inspired by Milk’s life and legacy,” said US Secretary of the Navy Carlos Del Toro before the ceremony, which was attended by Stuart Milk, Harvey Milk’s nephew and other local leaders, including San Diego mayor Todd Gloria.
Milk was the first openly gay politician to be elected to office in the U.S.
“Harvey was a ray of hope not only for the LGBTQ community, but for all Americans as well. And now this ship will serve as a symbol of hope for the whole world to see,” Todd Gloria wrote on his Twitter page.
Cleve Jones, who interned for Milk said that Milk may have been opposed to do idea due to his strong conviction against war. Jones said, “I have no idea what Harvey would think of this. He has been dead a long time. I can tell you I have mixed feelings. It is obviously an indication that gay people are more accepted than they were when he lived. And I think he would be glad of that. But he did not like war.”
Milk served as a diver in the U.S. Navy during the Korean War, but was discharged in 1955 for his homosexuality. In 1977, Milk became California’s first official to openly assume his homosexuality when he was elected to the San Francisco City Assembly. In November 1978, he and Mayor George Moscone were assassinated at City Hall by a political rival, Dan White.
In 2016, then-Navy Secretary Ray Mabus ordered six new refueling ships to be built for the Navy to be named after civil rights and human rights activists. General Dynamics NASSCO Shipyard began work in 2018 on ships to be named Harvey Milk, Sojourner Truth, Earl Warren, Robert F. Kennedy, Lucy Stone and John Lewis. The first member of the new ship class, John Lewis, was launched this summer.