U.S. Navy will name ship after gay rights icon

by Gregory Tomlin, |
U.S. sailors aboard the USS Ross conduct a replenishment at sea with the Military Sealift Command fleet replenishment oiler USNS Leroy Grumman in the Mediterranean Sea Jan. 5, 2016. The next generation oilers in the Navy will all be named for civil rights leaders. One will be named for gay activist Harvey Milk, an openly gay San Francisco politician killed in an incident of workplace violence in 1978. | U.S. Navy/Petty Officer 2nd Class Justin Stumberg

WASHINGTON (Christian Examiner) – The U.S. Navy, which normally names its ships after presidents, elected representatives, military leaders and combat heroes will name one of its newest ships for a gay rights activist.

U.S. Naval Institute News reports one of the Navy's new John Lewis-class ships will be named for controversial gay rights icon and San Francisco city supervisor Harvey Milk, who was shot to death along with Mayor George Moscone by a disgruntled former city supervisor in 1978.

Milk was not assassinated because he was gay, but he has nonetheless become a hero of the LGBT community because he was openly gay during a conservative era. The Obama administration has pushed Milk forward as a national hero on repeated occasions.

Milk was placed on a U.S. postage stamp in 2014, and five years prior he was posthumously awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom by President Barack Obama. At the time the medal was awarded, the White House said "Milk is revered nationally and globally as a pioneer of the LGBT civil rights movement for his exceptional leadership and dedication to equal rights."

Milk was a Navy veteran. He was commissioned in 1951 during the Korean War and served on the submarine rescue ship Kittiwake through 1955. He was a Navy diver, as well.

According to the U.S. Naval Institute, several California politicians have pushed to name a ship after Milk since the Defense Department lifted its "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" policy prohibiting the open service of homosexuals in 2011.

One of those was former Congressman and San Diego Mayor Bob Filner [D-Calif.], who was convicted in 2013 of sexually assaulting three women while in office.

Two other ships will be named for actual civil rights leaders. One will be named for Lucy Stone, a suffragette and contemporary of Susan B. Anthony. Another will be named for Sojourner Truth, also a women's rights advocate and abolitionist.

According to Secretary of the Navy Ray Mabus, all of the John Lewis-class ships ("oilers" which replenish other ships) will be named after civil rights leaders. The class of ship is named for Rep. John Lewis [D-Ga.], who worked with Martin Luther King Jr. in the Civil Rights Movement.

Other ships named for civil rights leaders include the Medgar Evers and the Cesar Chavez.