Ingalls Shipbuilding christened its newest Navy warship Saturday — the Portland — despite the refusal of its namesake city's mayor to get on board.
The LPD 27 Navy vessel is named for the largest city in Oregon.
That's why the Secretary of the Navy Ray Mabus invited Portland Mayor Charlie Hales to attend the amphibious transport dock's christening at the Pascagoula shipyard.
Hales declined the invitation, citing his objection to HB 1523, also known as the Religious Liberty Accommodations Act. Hales said he believes the new Mississippi law, which will take effect July 1, legalizes discrimination against the LGBT community. Like several other municipalities and states, the Portland City Council also banned any "non-essential travel" to Mississippi.
Hales explained his refusal to come to the Coast port in a Facebook post.
"The First Lady and I were invited by the U.S. Secretary of the Navy to help christen the USS Portland in Mississippi. We were scheduled to go in May. We will not be taking that trip if that discriminatory law isn't repealed. It would be a shame if the mayor of Portland couldn't attend the christening of the USS Portland, but I will not travel to a state that legalizes bigotry."
Without Hale in attendance, Bonnie Amos, wife of retired Marine Corps Commandant Gen. James Amos, smashed a bottle of sparkling wine across the bow of the ship, officially christening the Portland. "Today is about Ingalls shipbuilders," she said in a press release. "Today is about the pride in what has transpired to make this ship, LPD 27, the greatest ship and the best in her class."
The 684-foot-long, 105-foot-wide amphibious transport dock will carry and land Marines, their equipment and supplies.
LPD 27 is the third ship named Portland. The first USS Portland was launched in 1932. It was named after Portland, Maine, and saw action in World War II. The second USS Portland was named after both Portlands — Maine and Oregon.
LPD 27 cost $1.5 billion to build. It will be deployed to the West Coast after it undergoes sea trials.
It is the 11th ship in the San Antonio class that was built by Ingalls.
The Pascagoula shipbuilding company has received more than $300 million in advance procurement funding for a 12th ship in the same class as the Portland.
"She is the best LPD to date," Ingalls Shipbuilding President Brian Cuccias said of the Portland in a press release. "We continue to improve on each ship we build. We're investing, along with the great state of Mississippi and the Navy, in modernizing our facilities. Combine that with a hot production line and our talented and experienced shipbuilders, and we are uniquely positioned to provide our country with the highest-quality, most capable ships in our Navy's fleet."
"Our No. 1 congressional responsibility is the common defense of this nation," said U.S. Rep. Steven Palazzo, R-Miss. "Part of our national defense includes amazing ships like the LPD 27 San Antonio-class amphibious ship. With the daily occurrence of global threats, it's obvious we don't need just more ships, but ships that are survivable and capable. After all, they carry America's most precious treasure, our men and women in uniform."