In 1978, when gay rights activist Harvey Milk was assassinated, homosexuality was considered reason enough to discharge people from the military or to prevent them from enlisting in the first place. In 2016, the U.S. Navy purportedly seeks to name a ship after Milk.
The news came in a report published by the U.S. Naval Institute, citing a notification sent to Congress earlier this month by Secretary of the Navy Ray Mabus, signaling his intention to name a Military Sealift Command fleet oiler after Milk. The Navy has not officially confirmed the plan.
… Milk was the first openly gay elected official in California. As a young man, he served in the Navy as a diving officer during the Korean War. He was honorably discharged from the service with the rank of lieutenant in 1955.
After his time in the Navy, Milk worked as a public school teacher, stock analyst, and Broadway production assistant. His opposition to the Vietnam War, however, became his entry into activism. In 1972, he moved to San Francisco, where he organized the Castro Village Association, “a first in the nation organizing of predominantly LGBT businesses.” He ran for the San Francisco Board of Supervisors a year after he moved to the city. He lost again in 1975, but was elected in 1977 and was inaugurated in January 1978. He was assassinated later that year.
Some, like Milk’s nephew, Stuart Milk, have said that Harvey would be glad to have a ship named after him, given that it is a signal and symbol of our more accepting, authentic society. Former Milk intern Cleve Jones, however, noted that, while that is true, Harvey Milk “did not like war.”
The USNS Harvey Milk will be one in a series of ships named for civil rights icons (per NPR, the “series of vessels [is] known as the John Lewis–class, named for civil rights activist Rep. John Lewis,” and also includes ships named for Robert F. Kennedy and Sojourner Truth.