Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images.
Frank Kameny, the gay rights pioneer who coined the slogan “Gay is Good,” died Tuesday on National Coming Out Day at the age of 86.
The gay rights activist was found dead in his home in Washington, D.C. He had been in failing health, and died from apparent heart trouble, a longtime friend told the Associated Press.
Kameny was fired from his job as a government astronomer in 1957 for being gay and quickly became a leading figure in the gay rights movement. He sued for wrongful termination and took his case all the way to the Supreme Court, the first civil-rights claim on sexual orientation that the high court ever heard.
After losing, he co-founded the Mattachine Society of Washington, which advocated for equal rights for gays and lesbians.
In 1965, Kameny and 10 others became the first to stage a gay rights protest in front of the White House and later at the Pentagon and elsewhere. Many of Kameny's signs as well as buttons and leaflets from that time are now housed at the Smithsonian's National Museum of American History.
In the last years of his life, Kameny was increasingly recognized for his work as a gay rights pioneer. He was honored in 2009 during Washington's annual Capital Pride celebration and that same year received a formal apology for being fired solely based on his sexual orientation. The apology came from the successor to the U.S. Civil Service Commission, the U.S. Office of Personnel Management. The office is headed by John Berry, who is openly gay, and Kameny attended his swearing-in.
The Washington Post with more on his legacy:
Years before the gay rights movement existed in any widely recognized form and in an era in which open assertion of homosexuality could invite physical harm, Mr. Kameny worked to increase the acceptance of gay men and lesbians in mainstream American society and to win recognition of their equality under the law.
Rather than shrink from revealing his sexual orientation, Mr. Kameny made it plain. He won attention and respect in a vigorous but unsuccessful campaign he waged 40 years ago for election as the District’s non-voting delegate to Congress.