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What No One's Saying About Cokie Roberts: She Was an LGBTQ Ally

Cokie Roberts

The NPR and ABC journalist became an outspoken supporter of marriage equality.

Cokie Roberts, who died Tuesday at age 75, was not only an esteemed journalist for NPR and ABC but an LGBTQ ally.

Roberts and her husband, fellow journalist Steven Roberts, wrote a nationally syndicated opinion column for several years. In columns published in 2009 and 2011, they wrote about their evolution from supporters of civil unions for same-sex couples to full-on backers of equal marriage rights.

In the 2009 column, they noted that the nation was shifting toward support for marriage equality, then wrote, "We, too, have shifted views. 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 favor of civil unions, but nothing more. Individual states are ready, however, and the progress has been stunning." (Obama would come out for marriage equality during his reelection campaign in 2012.)

Support for marriage equality was growing, they wrote, because "same-sex couples are sharing and strengthening the 'family values' that conservatives profess to defend when they oppose gay marriage -- constancy, stability and a belief in the promises they make to each other and their children." Also, "people have simply seen how gay couples are living in their own communities and, often, in their own families," they said.

In 2011, when New York State had just passed a marriage equality bill, they remarked that the issue had become personal for many people. State Sen. Carl Kruger supported the New York bill after intense lobbying by his girlfriend's gay nephew, they reported. They further noted that their own friends included a young gay couple, Garth and Woody; both had provided end-of-life care for Garth's parents.

"Gay marriage is no longer an abstraction or a stereotype," the Robertses wrote. "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 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. ... Gay couples are now our friends, neighbors, colleagues."

In 2014, on ABC's This Week With George Stephanopoulos, Cokie Roberts pushed back against Christian right activist Ralph Reed and others who were spouting the anti-marriage equality argument that opposite-sex parents were necessary for raising children. Reed was claiming social science studies supported the view that kids do better with opposite-sex parents than with same-sex ones (not true, by the way).

Roberts responded, "But the social science is also irrefutable that a child raised in an orphanage is in much worse shape than a child raised in a home. And the fact that people are willing to take these children and raise them and raise them in a loving way is clearly better for these children than [being in an orphanage]."

Roberts was born in New Orleans as Mary Martha Corinne Morrison Claiborne Boggs and nicknamed Cokie by her brother Thomas, who couldn't pronounce Corinne, according to NPR. Her father, Democratic politician Thomas Hale Boggs Sr., represented a Louisiana district in the U.S. House for more than 30 years. After he died in a plane crash in 1972, his widow, Lindy Claiborne Boggs, took over his seat and ended up serving 17 years.

Although all other members of her immediate family sought political office, Roberts found that being a journalist covering politics was what suited her best. She joined NPR in 1978, when the network had been in existence only eight years. It had more women reporters than most major outlets did at the time, including Nina Totenberg, Susan Stamberg, and Linda Wertheimer in addition to Roberts. They were collectively dubbed the "Founding Mothers of NPR." Roberts joined ABC News in 1988 but remained a part-time political commentator at NPR until her death. She was an Emmy Award winner and wrote several best-selling books.

Roberts died of complications from breast cancer. Survivors include her husband of 53 years, a son and a daughter, and six grandchildren.

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