Frank Kameny, one of the nation's first activists for gay rights, died at his home in Washington, D.C. yesterday, The Washington Post reports. (Yesterday, as it happens, was also Coming Out Day.) At age 86, he was considered one of the fathers of gay rights movement, picketing the White House even before the Stonewall riots in 1969. His career as an activist began when, after receiving a Ph.D. in astronomy from Harvard, he was discharged from the U.S. Army Map Service over his sexual orientation. Though his petition to be reinstalled failed in front of the Supreme Court, his later career included successfully repealing D.C. sodomy laws, reversing the American Psychiatric Association's decision to classify homosexuality as a mental disorder, and coining the phrase "Gay Is Good." However, the greatest gay-rights achievement he saw in his lifetime was the repeal of Don't Ask, Don't Tell. In a 2006 interview with Metro Weekly, Kameny, who served in World War II, describes the difficulties of enlisting in the military back then:
When I enlisted, I was asked whether I had homosexual tendencies. I did, and I was well aware of them. As a healthy, vigorous 17- or 18-year-old, things had gone somewhat beyond mere tendencies. And I lied, as everyone did on this subject in those days. But I've resented for 63 years that I had to lie in order to serve.