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Navy oiler to be named after gay rights activist Harvey Milk

July 28, 2016 (Photo Credit: AP file photo)

Editor's note: This article first posted at 6:08 p.m. on July 28 and has been updated.

Pioneering gay rights activist and former Navy diver Harvey Milk is set to have a fleet oiler named after him, according to a leaked congressional notification.

Navy Secretary Ray Mabus sent a letter to Capitol Hill on July 14, according to a Navy official, to inform lawmakers that he intends to name a Military Sealift Command ship after the politician, who became the first openly gay person to hold public office in California in 1978.

Mabus' office declined to comment on the issue until an official ship-naming release is sent out, spokesman Lt. Eric Durie told Navy Times.

 

Milk, the son of two Navy veterans, served as a diving officer aboard the submarine rescue ship Kittiwake during World War II, then served as a diving instructor at Naval Base San Diego before his honorable discharge as a lieutenant junior grade in 1955.

A prominent member of San Francisco's LGBT community during the 1970s, Milk was elected to represent the 5th district on the San Francisco board of supervisors, taking office in early 1978. In November that year, he was shot and killed along with San Francisco Mayor George Moscone by fellow supervisor Dan White. His life and death were dramatized in the 2008 movie "Milk."

The campaign to get a ship named after him was spearheaded by a San Diego-area congressman, Rep. Bob Filner, D-Calif., who sent a letter to Mabus and then-Defense Secretary Leon Panetta urging them to name a submarine, aircraft carrier or other vessel after Milk.

In January, Mabus announced the next-generation class of fleet replenishment oilers would be named for civil rights leaders. The first ship in the class was named for John Lewis, a Georgia Democratic congressman who was a civil rights organizer alongside Martin Luther King Jr. The Milk would be the second ship in the class.

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