Gay Rights Pioneer Dies On National Coming Out Day

Frank Kameny became a pioneer in the gay rights movement after he was fired from his job as a government astronomer in 1957 for being gay. He was 86. Gay rights groups mourned his passing Tuesday, noting that the day was National Coming Out Day.

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RENEE MONTAGNE, HOST:

Let's remember, now, a pioneer for gay rights. Yesterday, on National Coming Out Day, Frank Kameny died.

STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

Mr. Kameny fought in World War II. He earned a PhD from Harvard. He landed a job with the U.S. Army Map Service. And then, in 1957, he was fired for being gay. Frank Kameny sued, and lost, and appealed, and lost. But this was still a landmark case. It was the first federal civil rights claim based on sexual orientation. He also organized a group called the Homophiles.

FRANK KAMENY: We initiated picketing and demonstrating by gay people in April of 1965. And those days, that kind of demonstration, I mean actually picketing in front of the White House was the ultimate in protest in 1965.

INSKEEP: That's Frank Kameny in a 1995 interview with NPR. For 50 years, he championed gay rights. A couple of years ago, the White House apologized for his firing in 1957. Frank Kameny was 86 when he died.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

INSKEEP: And that's the business news on MORNING EDITION from NPR News. I'm Steve Inkseep.

MONTAGNE: And I'm Renee Montagne.

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