The Navy has sparked controversy after naming a ship in honor of Harvey Milk, a known sexual predator and the first openly gay politician to run successfully for public office in the state of California.
Navy Secretary Ray Mabus said Tuesday that Milk, who served in the navy for four years before beginning entering the political arena, displayed tremendous courage fighting for the rights of the LGBT community, according to military.com.
However, Milk's career as a Navy officer ended with an "other than honorable" discharge, due to allegations of fraternization with enlisted personnel. Such relationships are against military regulations, whether they are the same or different genders.
Mabus said the late politician "offered hope for millions of Americans who were being ostracized and prosecuted just for who they loved" and stressed the importance of honoring those like Milk who fought for freedom and equality.
The fleet replenishment oiler named after Milk is the first of six that will be built by General Dynamics NASSCO and will replenish Navy ships, as well as the aircraft deployed on them, while at sea.
Milk served as a City Councilman in San Francisco in the '70s and was killed by fellow lawmaker Dan White in 1978. Although hailed by many in the LGBT community as a hero, the American Family Association has in the past noted that Milk was a sexual predator who preyed on young men and boys.
According to Milk's biography, "The Mayor of Castro Street," written by friend and fellow homosexual activist Randy Shilts, "Harvey always had a penchant for young waifs with substance abuse problems," adding that Milk had a relationship with a 16-year-old boy who was "looking for some kind of father figure. ... At 33, Milk was launching a new life, though he could hardly have imagined the unlikely direction toward which his new lover would pull him."
Rep. Duncan Hunter, R-Calif., slammed the decision to name a ship after Milk and accused Mabus of bowing to the LGBT agenda.
"What this says to the men and women of the Navy is that there wasn't one of you - at any time in history - who is more suitable for this honor. There are plenty of names out there to pick from, but Ray Mabus makes every decision with politics in his mind first and foremost, and that's a real disservice to men and women of the U.S. Navy and the service's legacy," Hunter said in a statement, according to the Washington Examiner.
In 2014, the AFA expressed outrage after Milk was featured on U.S. postage stamps, arguing that the politician was a "very disreputable man and used his charm and power to prey on young boys with emotional problems and drug addiction."
The pro-family group also described the stamp as part of the "the radical homosexual lobby" to "undoubtedly encourage businesses to use these stamps -- all in the name of inclusiveness, political correctness and diversity."
Meanwhile, Chad Griffin, the president of the advocacy group the Human Rights Campaign, lauded the Navy honor for Milk, calling it "further evidence of the profound progress on LGBTQ equality we continue to make as a nation."
"In his bold and unabashed advocacy, Milk inspired LGBTQ people for generations," Griffin said in a statement.
Five other replenishment oilers will bear the names of civil and human rights leaders: Sojourner Truth, Chief Justice Earl Warren, Robert F. Kennedy, suffragist Lucy Stone and Rep. John Lewis of Georgia.