SAN DIEGO (AP) – A naval ship named after murdered gay rights leader Harvey Milk, who served four years in the navy before being exiled, was baptized and launched in San Diego Bay on Saturday.
A USNS Harvey Milk oiler slipped from a shipyard after former Navy officer Paula M. Neira, clinical program director at the Johns Hopkins Transgender Health Center, smashed a bottle of champagne on her nose.
Milk’s nephew Stuart Milk and the Minister of the Navy, Carlos Del Toro, watched the traditional ceremony.
“The Secretary of the Navy was supposed to be here today, not only to correct mistakes of the past, but also to inspire all of our LGBTQ leaders who have served in the Navy, in uniform today, and among civilian staff. and tell them that we are loyal to them in the future, ”said Del Toro.
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Del Toro said that, like many others, Milk had to “disguise this very important part of his life” while serving in the navy.
“For too long, sailors like Lieutenant Milk have been driven into the shadows, or worse, expelled from our beloved fleet,” Del Toro said. “This injustice is part of the history of our fleet, but also the resilience of all who continue to serve in the face of injustice.”
Milk was one of the first gay candidates to be elected to government office. He was a member of the San Francisco Board of Supervisors in 1978 when former political colleague Dan White assassinated him and Mayor George Moscone at City Hall.
In 2016, then-Secretary of the Navy, Ray Mabus, decided that the six new oil companies to be built would be named after civil society leaders and human rights activists. In addition to Milk, they include Sojourner Eastin, Chief Justice Earl Warren, Robert F. Kennedy, suffragist Lucy Stone, and Rep. John Lewis of Georgia.
Del Toro told Mabus, who was present at the christening, that it was a bold decision.
“Ship names are important because they express what we value as a navy and as a nation, and convey those values around the world at every port of call,” Del Toro said.
Stuart Milk, co-founder and president of the Harvey Milk Foundation, thanked Mabus for providing family details of his uncle’s dismissal from the Navy.
“He’s got a less than honorable dismissal. He was forced to resign because he was gay, “said Stuart Milk, adding that” we must learn our history so that we don’t go back and repeat it. “
While there is a process for canceling such ranks, he said it was important not to do so for his late uncle, in order to “keep the memory of how we did not honor everyone in this very honorable service.”
The naval tradition of having naval “sponsors” went to Neira and US Senator Dianne Feinstein, California, who was unable to attend.
Feinstein was at San Francisco City Hall when Milk and Moscone were shot and then made a stunning announcement of their deaths. The ship “will carry away a rich legacy of civic leadership,” Feinstein said in a letter read out at the ceremony.
“When Harvey Milk sets sail, she will send a very strong message both domestically and around the world to anyone who believes in freedom, justice and freedom, that this family has a place for you,” said co-founder Neira.
General Dynamics NASSCO began construction of six oilfield service units in San Diego in 2018 as part of a $ 3.2 billion naval contract. This summer the first vessel of this class was baptized – “John Lewis”.