Construction begins on historic Naval Vessel named after LGBTQ leader Harvey Milk

SAN DIEGO (KUSI) – There was a familiar ceremony at NASSCO today, especially to KUSI viewers. It’s a ritual we’ve shown you before called “the first cut.”  It heralds the first piece of steel for a new ship and in this case, involves longtime NASSCO employee Kathy Baker.

We’ve been to  NASSCO twice recently as the San Diego shipbuilder constructs six new Navy oilers named after Civil Rights leaders. The class of ship and the first one being built carries the name of longtime Civil Rights leader and Georgia Congressman John Lewis.

Friday morning, there was a first cut for the second ship, the USNS Harvey Milk.

As a San Francisco Supervisor in the 70s,  Harvey Milk was California’s first openly-gay politician.  He was both a champion and symbol for gay rights.  He was tragically slain in his office by a fellow supervisor.

As a Navy diving instructor in the early 50’s, he was stationed briefly in San Diego. Less well known, is that when the Navy found out Harvey Milk was gay, he was forced out of the service.”

His nephew Stuart Milk, was at the ceremony.  Stuart Milk is the President of the Harvey Milk Foundation.

He told the gathering, “”For those who will be working on this ship, it’s important to note his legacy. If anyone asks, ‘did Harvey dream of this day,’ the answer is yes.  It’s what gave him the courage to face those bullets 41 years ago. He dreamed of all of us being included, and we would not be diminished because of that.  When we worked so hard to get rid of the ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell Policy,’ it sent a message that the Armed Services weren’t going to discriminate against anyone.”

We should also note that it was the concentrated effort by San Diego’s LGBTQ community that got Harvey Milk on a U.S. stamp and– got a NAVY ship named after him.

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