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Gay US bishop will seek civil union

The Rev V. Gene Robinson, the first openly gay bishop in the worldwide Anglican Communion, says he and his male partner plan to affirm their relationship under a new law on civil unions enacted in the US state of New Hampshire.

That announcement came as Nigerian Archbishop Peter J. Akinola, an outspoken critic of the US Episcopal Church’s consecration of Robinson as a bishop, was scheduled to oversee the installation this week of a bishop leading a group of dissident US Anglican parishes. The parishes no longer want to be under the jurisdiction of the US church.

"My partner and I look forward to taking full advantage of the new law," Robinson was quoted saying by The Associated Press news agency following a vote by the New Hampshire state senate approving a civil unions’ bill. New Hampshire’s governor, John Lynch, has said he will sign the legislation, which provides civil recognition of same-sex and unmarried couples.

The planned 5 May installation in the state of Virginia of Martyn Minns as the bishop of the Convocation of Anglicans in North America, a traditionalist grouping with ties to the Nigerian Anglican church, was criticised by Katharine Jefferts Schori, the US Episcopal Church’s presiding bishop.

"This action would only serve to heighten current tensions, and would be regrettable if it does indeed occur," she said in a statement

In New Hampshire, where Robinson is bishop, the new legislation stops short of being state-recognised marriage. "I think this is a huge leap forward, but it is not full equality," said Robinson, adding that same-sex couples should have protected legal rights throughout the United States.

Robinson, a divorced father aged 59, and his partner, Mark Andrew, aged 53, have been in a relationship for 18 years.

New Hampshire will become the fourth US state to offer civil unions; the others, all in the northeast, are Connecticut, New Jersey and Vermont. Massachusetts permits same-sex marriage.

Robinson was in 2003 consecrated as the first openly homosexual bishop within the Anglican Communion. The reaction to his elevation as bishop has triggered lingering tensions between the US Episcopal Church and other Anglican churches, particularly in Africa and Asia, which vehemently disagree with the US church’s stance on issues related to sexuality.

(c) Ecumenical News International