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US Navy launches fleet oiler named after gay rights leader Harvey Milk

18 November 2021

A US Navy vessel named after gay rights leader Harvey Milk, who served four years in the Navy before being forced out, was launched in San Diego Bay on 6 November 2021.

The licensed deck officers aboard the USNS Harvey Milk are represented by the Federal Employees Membership Group of the International Organization of Masters, Mates & Pilots (MM&P), a Nautilus Federation affiliate.

Milk was one of the first openly gay candidates elected to public office. In 1978, while he was serving on the San Francisco Board of Supervisors, he was assassinated in City Hall along with Mayor George Moscone.

The fleet replenishment oiler that bears his name was christened by former Navy officer Paula M. Neira, clinical program director for the Johns Hopkins Center for Transgender Health.

US Navy Secretary Carlos Del Toro and Milk's nephew, Stuart Milk, were present at the ceremony.

'The secretary of the Navy needed to be here today, not just to amend the wrongs of the past, but to give inspiration to all of our LGBTQ community leaders who served in the Navy, in uniform today and in the civilian workforce as well too, and to tell them that we’re committed to them in the future,' Del Toro said.

'For far too long, sailors like Lt. Milk were forced into the shadows or, worse yet, forced out of our beloved Navy.

That injustice is part of our Navy history, but so is the perseverance of all who continue to serve in the face of injustice.'

In 2016, then-Navy Secretary Ray Mabus decided that six new oilers that were scheduled to be built would be named after civil and human rights leaders.

In addition to Milk, they include Rep. John Lewis of Georgia, Sojourner Truth, Chief Justice Earl Warren, Robert F. Kennedy and suffragist Lucy Stone.

Last month, MM&P formed a Women's Caucus to effect change to assure equal rights, respect and safety for all mariners and workers in the maritime industry.

'America's merchant mariners have always served with valour and distinction, no matter their gender, lifestyle, sexuality or religious beliefs,' said MM&P Government Fleet Representative Randi Ciszewski, a member of the MM&P Women's Caucus.

'I'm pleased that the Navy is finally showing its support for diversity, equality and inclusivity by naming one of its vessels after gay rights leader Harvey Milk. It sends a strong, clear message that nobody should have to sacrifice who they are to serve our nation.'


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