How a controversial sci-fi story put Hugh Hefner on the map for human rights

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Hugh Hefner, the founder of Playboy, died Wednesday night at the age of 91.

Although Hefner leaves behind a polarizing legacy, many gay rights advocates are applauding his role in the sexual revolution — specifically when it came to publishing a controversial story when no one else would.

READ MORE: Hugh Hefner dead: Playboy founder dies aged 91

In 1955, shortly after Hefner founded Playboy, he published the short story, The Crooked Man by Charles Beaumont, which was a highly controversial piece at the time.

The story depicted a world in the future where the majority of the population is gay and heterosexual men are persecuted. It was rejected by a number of publications, including Esquire, but Hefner decided to publish it in Playboy.

Many readers were not pleased and Hefner received a flood of angry letters. But he didn’t flinch, in fact, he defended it.

WATCH: Hugh Hefner mourners conflicted on legacy Playboy founder leaves behind

In response to the letters, he wrote, “If it was wrong to persecute heterosexuals in a homosexual society, then the reverse was wrong, too.”

This was an early sign of Hefner’s commitment to gay and civil rights. Throughout his life, he voiced his support for same-sex marriage and racial equality.

In a 2009 article in the Daily Beast, he said “Without question, love in its various permutations is what we need more of in this world. The idea that the concept of marriage will be sullied by same-sex marriage is ridiculous. Heterosexuals haven’t been doing that well at it on their own.”

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