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    LGBTQ Leaders Among Dignitaries for USNS Harvey Milk (T-AO 206) Christening Ceremony on November 6

    By Eddie Reynoso–

    The Military Sealift Command fleet oiler USNS Harvey Milk (T-AO-206)—the second of the John Lewis-class oilers being built by General Dynamics NASSCO in San Diego, California—will be christened at a ceremony on November 6.

    The ceremony comes 10 years after the repeal of the U.S. military’s Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell policy. The repeal inspired longtime Latino and LGBTQ activist, San Diego City Commissioner Nicole Murray-Ramirez, and members of the International Court Council to research how U.S. naval vessels were named, and subsequently to launch a letter writing campaign to have a naval ship named after Harvey Milk.

    Ramirez, who had worked with Milk during the Anita Bryant and John Briggs homophobic campaign, along with the International Imperial Court System, had previously led the successful letter writing campaign for the Harvey Milk postage stamp. In addition to the stamp, San Diego Mayor Todd Gloria and Commissioner Ramirez are responsible for the first street named in honor of Milk. Harvey Milk Street is located in Hillcrest, San Diego’s LGBTQ neighborhood.

    The national letter writing campaign gained steam thanks, in part, to The Imperial Court System’s 70 city chapters throughout the U.S., Canada, and Mexico. And in 2016, then Secretary of the Navy, Ray Maybus, announced that three naval vessels would be named after Robert Kennedy, John Lewis, and Harvey Milk.

    Milk had enlisted in the Navy in 1951, and by 1954 he was a Lieutenant and was stationed in San Diego. It is therefore fitting that the USNS Harvey Milk (T-A0 206) is being built and christened in San Diego.

    “LGBTQ Americans have helped build and have contributed to our great nation,” said Ramirez for the San Francisco Bay Times. “Naval ships, schools, streets, stamps, and other monuments should and must also be named after LGBTQ heroes and leaders,” he added.

    Among the dignitaries who have been invited to attend the christening are both the former Republican mayor of San Diego, Kevin Faulkner, and the current mayor, Todd Gloria. A Democrat, Mayor Gloria is the first person of color and the first openly gay individual to serve as San Diego’s mayor. Commissioner Ramirez has previously led tours of the USNS Harvey Milk with LGBTQ and allied dignitaries, beginning with the very first steel cutting ceremony for the vessel.

    Other dignitaries who will be in attendance include former mayor Annise Parker of Houston, New Mexico State Representative Mauree Nivek Rajah Salima Turner, San Diego Congresswoman Sarah Jacobs, San Diego City Council President Pro Temp Stephen Whitburn, Stuart Milk, former West Hollywood mayor Hielman, and other national LGBTQ leaders and activists as well as leaders of the Imperial Courts System.

    LGBTQ veterans and active-duty service members are also at the top of Commissioner Ramirez’s invitation list and will include 91-year-old Navy veteran Frank Stefano, and Bob Lehman, the Founder of Veterans for Equality.

    A private reception, sponsored by the Imperial Court Council, The Harvey Milk Foundation, and the Victory Brunch, will be held after the launch at the estate of State Commissioner Robert Gleason.

    Among San Franciscans who will be in attendance are Former County Supervisor Bevan Duffy, Supervisor Rafael Mandelman, Emperor and President of the Imperial Court Council John Carrillo, and San Francisco Bay Times columnist and Absolute Empress XXX of San Francisco Donna Sachet. Sachet will be in attendance for the entire weekend of activities.

    After the receptions, guests and the public will be invited to participate in the new letter writing campaign of which the goal is honoring Bayard Rustin, Marsha P. Johnson, Silvia Rivera, and José Julio Sarria through a U.S. postage stamp.

    For more information on these campaigns: write to Nicolemrsd1@gmail.com or P.O. Box 33915, San Diego, CA, 92163-3915.

    Eddie Reynoso is the Chair of the San Diego LGBTQ Historic Task Force and the Executive Director of the Equality Business Alliance, San Diego’s LGBTQ & Allied Chamber of Commerce & Visitor Center.

    Published on October 21, 2021