US Navy to name ship after gay rights icon Harvey Milk

WASHINGTON (AFP) - The US Navy will name a ship after gay rights pioneer Harvey Milk, a San Francisco politician who was assassinated in 1978, a naval official said Friday (July 29).

Nicknamed "the gay Martin Luther King, Jr" for his work to end discrimination against gay people, Milk was killed one year after winning a seat on the San Francisco Board of Supervisors, which made him the first openly gay person to be elected to public office in America.

"I can confirm that the Navy sent congressional notification on the intention to name a new oiler USNS Harvey Milk," said a congressional notification obtained by USNI News, a website run by the United States Naval Institute.

A gay rights icon, Milk's story inspired the Gus Van Sant film starring Sean Penn, who won an Oscar for his performance as Milk.

Milk, who came from a naval family, served as a Navy diving officer during the Korean War.

The prefix "USNS" signifies that the boat serves as a support ship for the Navy - not a warship - often run by a civilian crew.

The Secretary of the Navy's office indicated that the ship slated to bear Milk's name would be a John Lewis-class oiler, ships Navy secretary Ray Mabus has said will be named after civil rights leaders.

The lead ship of the class is named after John Lewis, a congressman and civil rights movement activist.

Other notable leaders honored with ships in the class include former Supreme Court Justice Earl Warren, whose court decided to desegregate schools, assassinated politician Robert Kennedy and abolitionist Sojourner Truth.