Robert Wood, who called on churches to welcome gay people in the 1960s, has died aged 95.
Wood passed away at his home in New Hampshire on August 19, his friend Rejean Blanchette, who cared for him in his later years, confirmed to The New York Times.
Born on May 21, 1923, the pastor marched at early gay rights protests, years before the Stonewall Riots in 1969.Wood reportedly came out as gay to the public when his article titled “Spiritual Exercises” was published in a gay magazine, showing him photographed in a clerical collar.
He published his groundbreaking book Christ and the Homosexual in 1960, which called for church-approved equal marriage and for Christian clergy to welcome gay people.
Wood wrote that the “saving message of Christ and the freely flowing grace of God are as much for the homosexual as the heterosexual,” adding that “the church must minister equally to both; that the demands of Christ apply to both; that both are capable of being moral, as well as immoral and amoral.”
In 1960, Wood was honoured with an Award of Merit from The Mattachine Society, an early gay rights group.
Wood was also known to have carried out same-sex marriage ceremonies many years before it was enshrined in law across the entirety of the US in 2015.
In his younger years, Wood studied as an undergraduate at the University of Pennsylvania, and went on to be enlisted as a soldier during World War II.
He was injured during the invasion of Italy and honourably discharged for his efforts.
In 1962, Wood met his long-term partner, Hugh M. Coulter, an artist and cowboy, who was also a World War II veteran.
The pair met in a gay leather bar in Manhattan.
Wood and Coulter were also present at the country’s first gay picket line in 1965, reportedly protesting outside the Civil Service Building after it had been revealed that the head of the Civil Service Department said it would not employee gay people.
The couple spent 27 years together until Coulter’s death in 1989 and each wore a gold wedding ring.
In 2001, Wood was honoured as a gay pioneer by the Christian Association at the University of Pennsylvania.
And, in 2004, the United Church of Christ Coalition of LGBT Concern gave him its pioneer award.
He retired to New Hampshire in his later years.