Five years after the repeal of the "don't ask, don't tell" law allowed gay sailors to serve openly, the Navy plans to name one of its ships after California's first openly gay elected official. A Military Sealift Command ship, one of several John Lewis-class oilers currently being built, will be named after Harvey Milk, according to a Congressional notification seen by USNI News. Milk, whose parents both served in the Navy, joined the service during the Korean War and served as a diving officer on a submarine rescue ship. He was elected to the San Francisco board of supervisors in 1977 and was wearing his US Navy diver's belt buckle when he was assassinated in 1978.
"When Harvey Milk served in the military, he couldn't tell anyone who he truly was," San Francisco Supervisor Scott Wiener, who authored a resolution in 2012 asking the Navy to name a ship after Milk, said in a statement. "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." The Navy Times reports that Navy Secretary Ray Mabus announced earlier this year that the next generation of fleet replenishment oilers would be named after civil rights leaders. Others in the class will be named after RFK, former Supreme Court Justice Earl Warren, and women's rights activists Lucy Stone and Sojourner Truth. (A gay man kicked out of the Army in 1955 was finally granted an honorable discharge in January.)