By Gina Cherelus
(Reuters) - The U.S. Navy will name one of its new class of oil tankers after Harvey Milk, an activist who became one of the first openly gay people to be elected to public office in the United States before his assassination in 1978, officials said on Friday.
Secretary of the Navy Ray Mabus notified Congress that he intended to name the ship after Milk and said the entire class of six vessels would be named after civil and human rights leaders.
The Navy has already named the first tanker in the class after John Lewis, a leader of the 1960s civil rights movement and now a congressmen representing a district in Georgia.
Milk's nephew, Stuart Milk, who called on the Navy to name a ship after his late uncle, expressed his excitement on social media.
In a Facebook post before the congressional notification, he said the Navy's move would spread "the hope that uncle Harvey had dreamed would come from those bullets that killed him."
The U.S. Navy plans to name a ship after Milk were first reported by Military.com. The ships will transport fuel and supplies to replenish U.S Navy ships at sea and jet fuel for aircraft.
Milk served in the U.S. Navy in 1951 as a diving officer during the Korean War. Elected to the San Francisco board of supervisors as the first openly gay California politician, he was killed in office in 1978.
It was illegal for gay people to serve in the U.S. military until 1994, when President Bill Clinton instituted the so-called "don't ask, don't tell" policy. Last week, the Pentagon ended its ban on openly transgender people serving in the military.
The Navy plans to name other ships after slavery abolitionist Sojourner Truth, U.S. Attorney General Robert F. Kennedy, U.S. Representative John Lewis, Chief Justice Earl Warren and women's rights activist Lucy Stone, according to a post on the Harvey Milk Foundation's Facebook page.
(Reporting by Gina Cherelus; Editing by Bill Rigby)