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California lawmakers call for Navy ship to be named after Harvey Milk

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State lawmakers have no power to name U.S. Navy ships, but that didn't discourage the state Senate on Monday from a long, passionate debate over a proposal to name a vessel after slain gay rights leader Harvey Milk.

State Sen. Christine Kehoe (D-San Diego) introduced a resolution urging the Navy to name a ship for Milk, a member of the San Francisco Board of Supervisors who was assassinated by a political rival.

Kehoe noted that Milk began his public service in the Navy, serving during the Korean War as a diver aboard the submarine rescue ship Kittiwake and later as a diving instructor before eventually leaving the Navy as a lieutenant.

"It's more than appropriate to my constituents and to all of us that Harvey Milk be remembered for his service in the U.S. military,'' Kehoe said.

But Republican senators opposed the resolution, saying Navy ships are traditionally named after states, cities, presidents and admirals. They said Milk's military record did not rise to the level of justifying his name on a ship.

"This is political correctness moving a little farther out of control,'' said Sen. Doug La Malfa (R-Richvale) during the floor debate. "I think it would be demoralizing to many of the folks who would be stationed aboard such a vessel.''

Kehoe noted that President Obama posthumously awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom to Milk, and that the state has designated May 22 annually as "Harvey Milk Day.'' In the end, Senate Resolution 36 was approved on a 25-8 vote, with no Republicans voting in favor.

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-- Patrick McGreevy in Sacramento 

Photo: San Francisco Mayor George Moscone, right, and Supervisor Harvey Milk after the signing of the city's landmark gay rights law in 1977. Credit: Associated Press

 
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