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Openly Gay Anglican Bishop Gets 'Committed' Amidst Controversy

By L.K. Regan

Openly gay Anglican bishop Eugene Robinson was joined to Mark Andrew, his partner of 20 years, in a civil ceremony this weekend, the Associated Press reports. The couple was united under New Hampshire's law recognizing civil unions, which came into effect in 2008. The event consisted of a private civil ceremony and a service of thanksgiving, both held at St. Paul's church in Concord, New Hampshire. It was attended by 100 guests, and presided over by a close friend of the couple and Justice of the Peace, Rona Wise.

Robinson's sexuality has been at the center of a storm of controversy in the Anglican church, which has come to the brink of schism since his appointment to the bishopric in 2003. This year the Anglican communion holds the Lambeth conference, its once-a-decade global meeting in Canterbury, England, and the question of Robinson's attendance—and of the continued implications of his investiture—have been central concerns. In March of this year, Robinson announced that he would not attend the Lambeth conference, to which he had been given only a restricted invitation, one that prevented him from participating in the worship and study groups that are central to the event.

In April, however, Robinson reconsidered that decision, and announced his dual intention to attend the conference and to commit to his life partner in a civil union. The two things appear to be linked—threats against Robinson's life led him to feel that he would be potentially in danger at the conference, and needed to have his family's interests protected. "I'm not willing to put my life at risk without taking advantage of what protections I can put in place, in a civil union for my partner and family," Robinson told England's The Guardian newspaper; "I think that's what any wife or husband would do."

New Hampshire's law permitting same-sex unions was passed in 2007 and went into effect in January of 2008. It gives same sex couples "the same rights, responsibilities and obligations of marriage," and was the first law of its type to go into effect without either court action or the threat thereof. But, as Robinson himself points out, New Hampshire's civil union law is not gay marriage—as he says of the law, "It provides about 400 of the 1100 rights and protections that heterosexual marriage offers, so it's not equal, it's not equality, but it's certainly a step forward."