Journalist and LGBT+ champion Cokie Roberts has died aged 75

Cokie Roberts, a trailblazing journalist and LGBT+ ally who pushed for marriage equality in the US, has died of breast cancer aged 75.

Roberts is cited as one of the 50 greatest women in the history of broadcasting. In her 40-year career she brought what The New York Times called a “tough, knowledgable voice” to the political arena at a time when few women had high profiles in the industry.

Along with her husband, fellow journalist Steven Roberts, she helped push the national conversation towards marriage equality for LGBT+ couples. Together they delivered a strong, influential argument on behalf of a still-marginalised community.

The couple readily admitted that their views on the subject evolved over time. Having initially only supported civil unions, in 2009 they penned an op-ed for the Daily News Tribune in support of full marriage equality.

“We, too, have shifted views,” they wrote. “Three years ago, we strongly supported civil unions and equal rights for gay couples but did not think the country was ready for same-sex marriage.

“The country as a whole is still not ready, and for political reasons President Obama remains where we used to be — in favour of civil unions, but nothing more. Individual states are ready, however, and the progress has been stunning.”

Cokie Roberts interviews former President Gerald Ford in 2003 (Chris Polk/FilmMagic/Getty)

They noted that support for marriage equality was growing, and that same-sex couples “are strengthening the ‘family values’ that conservatives profess to defend… constancy, stability, and a belief in the promises they make to each other and their children.”

The husband and wife team continued to push for LGBT+ rights after New York passed the Marriage Equality Act, publishing a 2011 article entitled: “Gay rights have gotten personal now.”

They reminded readers that “gay couples are now our friends, neighbours, colleagues”, and revealed that they had been influenced by the experiences of a young gay couple they were friends with.

“Gay marriage is no longer an abstraction or a stereotype. It’s not a matter of religion or ideology. It’s a matter of real people, like Garth and Woody, living and loving and committing themselves to each other,” they said.

Cokie Roberts speaks onstage during the 30th Annual Salute To Women In Sports Awards in 2009 (Stephen Lovekin/Getty)

“They are not ‘undermining’ the institution of marriage (in the words of New York’s Catholic bishops); they are doing exactly the opposite. They are reinforcing the institution by wanting to be part of it. And that helps explain why public opinion is changing so swiftly.”

Roberts also wrote eight books, won three Emmys, and was named a “Living Legend” by the Library of Congress in 2008. She is survived by her husband of 53 years, and two children and six grandchildren.

In a statement after her death, ABC News president James Goldston said: “She will be dearly missed. Cokie’s kindness, generosity, sharp intellect and thoughtful take on the big issues of the day made ABC a better place and all of us better journalists.”

And Donald Trump said “she never treated me nicely” – which should tell you all you need to know about the pioneering woman.