WASHINGTON – Frank Kameny, who became a pioneer in the gay rights movement after he was fired from his job as a government astronomer in 1957 for being gay, has died at his home in Washington. He was 86.
Bob Witeck, a friend of Kameny’s for three decades, confirmed his Tuesday death. Kameny had been in failing health, and a medical examiner said he suffered a heart attack or heart failure, Witeck said.
Plans for a memorial in November were being discussed, Witeck said.
Gay rights groups mourned his passing Tuesday, noting it was National Coming Out Day, when many gay people celebrate coming out and encourage others to do the same.
“While so many have been impatient about the pace of progress, there was Frank, insisting we recognize that, in the last two years, he was regularly invited as a guest of honor by the very government that fired him simply for being gay,” said a statement by Rea Carey, the executive director of the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force.
Joe Solmonese, the president of the Washington-based Human Rights Campaign, said in a statement that Kameny “set a path for the modern LGBT civil rights movement.”
Kameny told the Associated Press in 2009 that his contributions to the gay rights struggle had only recently begun to sink in. He said at the time he wanted to be remembered most for coming up with the slogan “Gay is Good” in 1968 to counter an onslaught of negativism aimed at gays and lesbians.