Two Out Supes Withdraw Support for Milk Resolution
Two out members on the San Francisco Board of Supervisors have withdrawn their support for a resolution calling on the U.S. Navy to name a vessel after slain gay rights leader Harvey Milk.
Both gay District 9 Supervisor David Campos and bisexual District 5 Supervisor Christina Olague initially agreed to co-sponsor the resolution crafted by their colleague, gay District 8 Supervisor Scott Wiener.
But after a number of people raised concerns last week about the proposal, Campos and Olague removed their names as co-sponsors.
Milk served in the Navy as a diving instructor and was discharged in 1955 at the rank of lieutenant, junior grade. Later in life he was an outspoken opponent of the Vietnam War, according to his friends.
After learning more about Milk’s military views and hearing the objections some have expressed seeing a naval vessel named in his honor, Olague had a change of heart about endorsing the idea.
"I heard from a lot of people who actually knew him," Olague told the Bay Area Reporter. "He had an anti-war, anti-military philosophy toward the end of his life."
Campos also told the Bay Area Reporter that he withdrew as a sponsor due to the "legitimate concern" he received about the idea, adding that "many, including some who knew Harvey, feel that there are better ways to honor Harvey Milk."
He added that he originally supported the resolution because he believes that, "given the number of LGBT people who serve in the military, including the Navy, it is appropriate for a Navy ship to be named after a member of the LGBT community. I still believe that."
Wiener now is the sole sponsor of the resolution, as he had only asked his out colleagues on the board to co-sign it.
It states, in part, that "it is time to recognize the contributions of United States Navy LGBT service members by naming a ship after an LGBT veteran; and ... Milk, in light of his role as a community leader, trailblazer, visionary elected official, and Navy veteran, fits such a role perfectly on his own behalf and on behalf of the LGBT community."
Due to the controversy his resolution has stirred, Wiener decided to send it first to a board committee prior to having the full board vote on it. The City Operations and Neighborhood Services Committee, on which Olague sits, will take up the matter at its 10 a.m. meeting Monday, May 14 in Room 260 at City Hall.
"I sent it to committee because I believe the issue is important enough to warrant a committee discussion and because if there’s going to be significant public comment, it’s better for that to occur at a committee hearing," Wiener told the B.A.R. this week.
In late April LGBT activists in San Diego launched a campaign to convince Navy Secretary Ray Mabus to name a Navy ship the USS Harvey Milk. Milk’s family, along with several friends and former aides, has endorsed the idea.
Congress members Bob Filner (D-San Diego), the ranking Democrat on the House Armed Services Committee, and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-San Francisco) also back the proposal. But it also has attracted a fair share of detractors.
While she understands people want to honor Milk’s memory, Olague said she is not convinced this is the best way to do so.
"I understand wanting to name a warship in his memory. I can also understand why Harvey Milk is not the appropriate person for that honor," Olague said.
She suggested she could support a resolution calling on the Navy to name a vessel after Leonard Matlovich. The onetime Castro resident served in the Air Force and appeared on the cover of Time magazine in 1975 as part of an article detailing his legal battle over the military’s anti-gay ban.
At Tuesday’s board meeting Olague submitted a resolution calling for Milk’s birthday on May 22 to be declared a national holiday to be heard by the supervisors May 15. California already recognizes the date as a day of special significance in honor of Milk, the first gay person to hold elected office in the state who was killed in 1978.