- The Washington Times - Wednesday, August 17, 2016

U.S. Navy Secretary Ray Mabus praised the efforts of slain gay rights leader Harvey Milk at a Tuesday ceremony in San Francisco to officially commemorate the naming of a new ship in honor of the former city supervisor.

Milk, the first openly gay man in the country to be elected to public office, joined the Navy during the Korean War and served as a diving officer prior to his involvement in politics. His military tenure ended in 1955 with an other than honorable discharge, and he was assassinated in 1978 less than a year after winning the San Francisco city supervisor race.

“Even after death, his voice still spoke, his struggles continued and his cause taken up by countless others,” Mr. Mabus said at Tuesday’s ceremony.

The Navy announced last month it would name a Military Sealift Command fleet oiler in tribute to the late politician, the USNS Harvey Milk. The ship will be built in San Diego and will join a fleet of six next-generation vessels all named for American civil and human rights leaders.

Mr. Mabus said it was “important to recognize and honor” Milk, whose efforts, he said, were for the causes of “justice, equality and freedom.”

Milk “offered hope for millions of Americans who were being ostracized and prosecuted just for who they loved,” he said.

“If anyone here, or anyone you know, was discharged for being a member of the LGBT community, and if they’re interested, come back and let the Navy take another look at that discharge,” Mr. Mabus said.

The Pentagon formally lifted its ban against gays serving in the military in 2011. 

“The world’s largest and most powerful military can embrace everyone, then certainly the rest of the world can come along,” said Milk’s nephew, Stuart Milk, who was on hand at Tuesday’s ceremony in addition to lawmakers including House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi and San Francisco Mayor Ed Lee.

The USNS Harvey Milk is expected to be ready for deployment by 2019, and will join a fleet of similarly named ships dedicated to Sojourner Truth, Chief Justice Earl Warren, Robert F. Kennedy, suffragist Lucy Stone and civil rights leader Rep. John Lewis, Georgia Democrat.

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