You could see this coming. As Navy Secretary Ray Mabus has colored outside the lines when naming new naval vessels, special pleadings were bound to follow. His decision to christen Navy ships for Rep. John Murtha, labor leader Cesar Chavez, civil rights leader Medgar Evers, former congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords, and President Lyndon Baines Johnson, are all defensible, if somewhat controversial.
But now Rep. Bob Filner, D-Calif., wants the Navy to name a ship for one-time Navy diving officer Harvey Milk. He was the gay activist murdered in San Francisco in 1978, along with Mayor George Moscone, by deranged former board of supervisors member – and Vietnam-era Army veteran — Dan White.
Filner urges “the Department of the Navy to name the next appropriate ship after Harvey Milk,” in his letter to Mabus. “This action would be a fitting tribute to Mr. Milk’s support for equality, an ideal exemplified in the military’s recent repeal of its former `Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ policy.”
A good argument can be made for naming a ship for Milk. Gay advocates have already launched a national letter-writing campaign to Mabus urging him to name a ship for the gay icon, portrayed by Sean Penn in 2008’s Milk biopic.
Those who might complain about it probably would be too old to serve aboard it. But Mabus needs to take care that the naming of Navy vessels doesn’t turn into a popularity contest. After all, he started it.