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Gay rights legend Frank Kameny dead at 86

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Frank Kameny, who was fired from his job as a government astronomer in 1957 for being homosexual and became a pioneer in the gay rights movement, has died.

[Includes entire 8:32 interview with longtime Kameny friend Bob Witeck]

Bob Witeck, a friend of Kameny’s for three decades, confirmed his death Tuesday. Witeck said the 86-year-old Kameny had been in failing health and that a medical examiner said Kameny suffered a heart attack or heart failure.

Witeck tells OutQ News that Kameny was singularly driven to earn “full respect, dignity and equality for gay people,” which made him both—in Witeck’s words—”a pain in the ass” and a titanic hero to the community.

Witeck: “Setbacks meant nothing to him. When fired, of course, it only unleashed the inner beast. And Frank relentlessly decided, as he often said, that he was right and society is wrong. And his life’s work was making sure that society came around to his point of view.”

Witeck says plans for a memorial in November are being discussed.

In 1965, Kameny was the first to stage a gay rights protest with about 10 others in front of the White House and later at the Pentagon and elsewhere. Those signs as well as buttons and leaflets are now housed at the Smithsonian.

Bonus audio:

Bob Witeck talks about gay rights hero Frank Kameny (8:32)
Bob Witeck was Frank Kameny’s friend for more than 30 years, and is a co-organizer of the Kameny Papers Project, to preserve the gay rights legend’s history and legacy.

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Written by Tim Curran

October 12, 2011 at 4:33 PM

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