Frank Kameny, gay rights pioneer, dead at 86

By JESSICA GRESKO | October 11, 2011 | 11:30 PM EDT

WASHINGTON (AP) — 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.

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 said 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.