Some commentators, such as prominent gay blogger Andrew Sullivan of the Daily Beast, second-guessed Ride's decision to opt for privacy.
"She had a chance to expand people's horizons and young lesbians' hope and self-esteem, and she chose not to," he wrote. "She was the absent heroine."
Others were supportive of Ride's choices.
Episcopal Bishop Gene Robinson of New Hampshire, who in 2003 became the first openly gay bishop in the Anglican world, noted that both he and Ride were baby boomers who grew up "in a time when coming out was almost unthinkable."
Robinson is 65. Ride was 61 when she died of pancreatic cancer.
"For girls who had an interest in science and wanted to go places women had not been allowed to go, she was a tremendous role model," Robinson said Wednesday. "The fact that she chose to keep her identity as a lesbian private - I honor that choice."
Fred Sainz, the Human Rights Campaign's vice president for communications, said his initial reaction to the revelation about Ride was, "What a shame that we didn't learn this while she was alive."
"However, the fact it was acknowledged in death will be an incredibly powerful message to all Americans about the contributions of their LGBT counterparts," Sainz said. "The completeness of her life will be honored correctly."
Ride's sister, Bear Ride, a lesbian who has been active in gay-rights causes, e-mailed a supportive explanation of Ride's choice.
"She was just a private person who wanted to do things her way," she wrote. "She hated labels (including 'hero')."
Carolyn Porco, a prominent planetary scientist and leader of the imaging team on NASA's Cassini mission to Saturn, met Ride many years ago when she was an astronaut candidate, already steeped in the NASA mind-set of reserve and self-effacement.
"Following her career all these years, she struck me as a woman of impeccable class, and it doesn't surprise she wanted to keep her private life private," Porco said. "I don't think it's anyone else's business, and I'd love for us all to get to the place where it doesn't matter anymore."
That's been a common theme in the commentary about Ride's relationship - a hope that society will someday reach a point where being gay or lesbian is no more noteworthy than being straight.
Sarah Blazucki, editor of Philadelphia Gay News, said that day has not arrived.
"It's still important to come out, because we're not post-gay yet," she said. "When we do have full equality, then it's a different story."
She expressed respect for Ride's choices but also regret.
"In the long run, everyone in the LGBT community and those who will follow benefit from someone coming out," Blazucki said. "It's sad that she felt she had to wait."