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 for three decades, said Mr. Kameny died Tuesday (Oct. 11, 2011).
Mr. Kameny had been in failing health, and a medical examiner said he suffered a heart attack or heart failure, Witeck said.
Gay rights groups mourned Mr. Kameny's passing, noting that Tuesday was National Coming Out Day, when many gay people celebrate coming out and encourage others to have the courage to do the same.
Mr. Kameny told the Associated Press in 2009 that 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.
Mr. Kameny had been an astronomer for just five months when he was dismissed. He contested his firing by the U.S. Civil Service Commission by writing letters to the agency, both houses of Congress and, eventually, the White House.
He sued and lost in lower courts, but pressed on with a lengthy brief in 1961 that is now regarded as the first civil rights claim based on sexual orientation to be brought to the U.S. Supreme Court.