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Gay rights pioneer Frank Kameny dies at 86
October 12, 2011 / 2:50 PM / 6 years ago

Gay rights pioneer Frank Kameny dies at 86

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President Obama shakes hands with gay rights activist Frank Kameny after signing a Presidential Memorandum regarding federal benefits and non-discrimination, in the Oval Office, June 17, 2009.Larry Downing

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Frank Kameny, a pioneer of the U.S. gay rights movement who waged a decades long fight against legal restrictions on homosexuals, has died at age 86, a longtime friend said on Wednesday.

Kameny was found dead in his Washington home on Tuesday afternoon, the victim of an apparent heart attack, said Bob Witeck, a public relations executive.

"Almost everything we've achieved (in rights and public acceptance for homosexuals) were done on Frank's watch or are to Frank's credit," Witeck said.

Kameny, a Harvard astronomy PhD who was reportedly fired from a federal job in the 1950s because of his homosexuality, was a leading militant in the ultimately successful fight to give gay people U.S. security clearances.

He also played a major role in the campaign that led the American Psychiatric Association to stop classifying homosexuality as a mental disorder.

Kameny described December 15, 1973, the date when the association made the change, as the day that "we were cured en masse by the psychiatrists."

Kameny, a World War II Army veteran who served in Europe, campaigned against employment restrictions against gays and the Defense Department's "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" policy that forced thousands of homosexuals from the armed forces. The policy expired last month.

Kameny, who is generally credited with coining the slogan "Gay Is Good," was given a formal apology by the federal government in 2009 for his dismissal.

He donated thousands of pages of papers and other memorabilia to the Library of Congress in 2006.

Witeck said a memorial service was being planned for November 15, the 50th anniversary of the Mattachine Society of Washington, a pioneering gay activist group Kameny co-founded.

Reporting by Ian Simpson; Editing by Jerry Norton

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