Jane Rule, 76, a writer of lesbian-themed novels, died on Tuesday of complications from liver cancer at her home in British Columbia, Canada.

Born in New Jersey in 1931, Ms Rule moved to Galiano Island, Canada with partner Helen Sonthoff, after a peripatetic childhood in America.

“I was proud and relieved to claim the label Canadian,” Ms. Rule told the Globe and Mail.

In July she was appointed to the Order of Canada, the country’s highest civilian honour, in recognition of her lifetime contribution to literature.

Ms Rule won many awards over the years as a writer, educator, gay rights activist, including the Order of British Columbia in 2004.

In 1964 her first novel Desert of the Heart, a lesbian love story, was published and Ms Rule was publicly outed.

It was made into an award-winning film, Desert Hearts, starring Helen Shaver, in 1985.

In recent years, Ms Rule opposed gay marriage on the basis that it ‘mainstreams’ gay and lesbian relationships.

“To be forced back into the heterosexual cage of coupledom is not a step forward but a step back into state-imposed definitions of relationships,” she said.