Legendary actress and LGBT ally Patty Duke dies

Beloved Oscar-winning actress Patty Duke passed away today at the age of 69. Her representatives report she suffered from a ruptured intestine.

Hollywood Show 2014Photo by Albert L. Ortega/Getty Images

Patty was a longtime ally of the LGBT community, appearing as an out lesbian in the 1982 film By Design. As Helen, Patty was partnered with Angie (Sara Botsford), women’s fashion designers who are refused by adoption agencies and decide to build a family of their own by seeking out a sperm donor. The Canadian comedy received positive reviews, Genie nominations for both actresses and was decidedly ahead of its time.


More recently, Patty appeared as Meredith Baxter‘s partner on Glee. Her character, Jan, was a jeweler who helped Blaine in his quest to find the perfect engagement ring for Kurt.


In a 2011 interview, Patty explained how she came to be an ally:

One of the wonderful side effects of being in show business is that we’re exposed to all kinds of life conditions. From an early age I knew what gay was, but, remember, I grew up in a time where it was still something you whispered.

When I did Valley of the Dolls and it became such a magnet for gay people and such a cult movie, that’s when I was exposed more and more to gay people—usually men, but women as well—and the gifts that these people bring to the planet—I mean, I’ve wallowed in it [both laugh] for a long time. …

At any rate, my exposure to and with gay people has brought me so much more understanding and compassion and respect, which is I think one of the things … there are pockets in this country where that kind of respect still doesn’t exist.

In 2014, Patty became ordained specifically to “marry all the gay couples in our beloved country.” Rest in peace, Patty.