The U.S. Navy made a surprisingly uplifting and supportive announcement, saying that it would be honoring the late gay rights advocate, Harvey Milk. Milk, who was America’s first openly gay elected public official from a large city, was assassinated in 1978.
The Secretary of the Navy, Ray Mabus, declared that a new fleet oiler slated to be built will be named for Milk much to the pleasant surprise of the LGBT and military communities. The tanker is the first of six replenishment oilers which will be tasked with bringing supplies and fuel to Navy ships that are out on assignment. Milk served in the Navy from 1951-1955, when he left as a ranking lieutenant junior.
Scott Weiner from the San Francisco Board of Supervisors, reacted on the Navy’s decision by saying: “When Harvey Milk served in the military, he couldn’t tell anyone who he truly was. Now our country is telling the men and women who serve, and the entire world, that we honor and support people for who they are.”
In June, the Pentagon began allowing transgender people to serve openly, and five years before, President Obama lifted the old-fashioned “don’t ask, don’t tell” military policy. In 2009, Obama gave Harvey Milk the Presidential Medal of Freedom posthumously.
Harvey Milk’s life story is well known and in the 2008 film, Milk, Sean Penn played the eponymous role, which garnered Penn an Academy Award. And Milk was recently mentioned by Tim Kaine at the Democratic National Convention when he said, “Harvey gave his life.”