USNS Harvey Milk Named After Gay Rights Activist And Politician

The U.S. Navy formally launched and christened USNS Harvey Milk in California on Saturday. The ship bears the name of murdered gay rights advocate and politician Harvey Milk of San Francisco. 

The ship was christened by Paula M. Neira, who works for the Johns Hopkins Center for Transgender Health as the clinical program director. She is a former officer in the Navy. Secretary of the Navy Carlos Del Toro and Milk’s nephew, Stuart Milk, attended the public ceremony that included Neira smashing a bottle of champagne on the ship’s bow.

Del Toro said that he needed to attend as Naval Secretary to “amend the wrongs of the past” and inspire the LGBTQ community in uniform and working as civilian employees of the Navy, letting them know that the Navy is now committed to that community.

Former Secretary of the Navy Ray Mabus first announced the plan to name an oil replenisher ship after Milk in 2016. He said then that the Navy planned to name six oilers after civil rights leaders. The persons selected were Milk, Chief Justice Earl Warren, Sojourner Truth, women’s voting rights activist Lucy Stone, Robert F. Kennedy, and Georgia Representative John Lewis.

Stuart Milk thanked Mabus at the time for releasing details to his family about Harvey Milk’s discharge from the Navy. Stuart Milk said that his uncle received a “less-than-honorable discharge” because he was gay. He added that “we have to teach our history” not to go “backward and repeat it.”

Harvey Milk was the first openly gay person elected to office in California, winning a seat on the San Francisco Board of Supervisors in 1977. He and Mayor George Moscone were killed at the City Hall by a former member of the board, Dan White 1978.

Milk was alleged to have had numerous LGBTQ relationships with boys under 18. One biography written by a supporter of Milk states that when Milk was 33, he had a live-in physical relationship with a 16-year-old boy in San Francisco.