The Navy Is Naming a Ship After Gay Icon Harvey Milk

The civil rights pioneer was assassinated more than 40 years ago.

The Navy will name a ship after gay rights trailblazer Harvey Milk, 40 years after he was gunned down by San Francisco city supervisor Dan White.

A notification signed by Navy Secretary Ray Mabus indicates he intended to name a planned Military Sealift Command fleet oiler USNS Harvey Milk.

Milk came from a Navy family and was in the service himself, serving a diving officer in San Diego during the Korean War before being honorably discharged as a lieutenant junior grade. (Milk was wearing his U.S. Navy diver’s belt buckle when he was assassinated.)

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The honor “will further send a green light to all the brave men and women who serve our nation that honesty, acceptance and authenticity are held up among the highest ideals of our military,” said Milk’s nephew, Stuart Milk.

Other civil rights trailblazers having ships named after them include former Supreme Court Chief Justice Earl Warren, former Attorney General Robert F. Kennedy, women’s right activist Lucy Stone, and abolitionist Sojourner Truth. Mabus previously named ships after civil rights leaders Medgar Evers and Cesar Chavez.

Milk was honored with a U.S. postage stamp in 2014. In 2018, officials in the city of Portland, Oregon, also voted unanimously to name a major street after the activist.

Dan Avery is a writer-editor who focuses on culture, breaking news and LGBT rights. His work has appeared in Newsweek, The New York Times, Time Out New York, The Advocate and elsewhere.