The Episcopal bishop whose openly gay life ignited a controversy that ripped the church apart says he is divorcing his partner of more than 25 years.
Retired Bishop Gene Robinson made national headlines in 2003 when he was elected the church's first openly gay bishop. That led to to a rift that resulted in conservative Episcopalians quitting the church and forming the Anglican Church in North America.
Robinson, 66, was ordained a priest in 1973 and served as bishop in New Hampshire for a decade before retiring last year. He met his future husband, Mark Andrew, in 1987. They moved in together a year later with the blessing of then-Bishop Douglas Theuner.
They were joined in a civil union in 2008 and married when it became legal in New Hampshire in 2010. Robinson announced his divorce in an e-mail to the diocese Saturday.
"As my marriage to Mark ends, I believe him to be one of the kindest, most generous and loyal human beings on earth," Robinson said in a piece for The Daily Beast published Sunday. "There is no way I could ever repay the debt I owe him for his standing by me through the challenges of the last decade."
Robinson first married in 1972 and has said he and his wife, Isabella, had already discussed his "fears" concerning his sexuality. They had two daughters before divorcing in 1986.
"It is at least a small comfort to me, as a gay rights and marriage equality advocate, to know that like any marriage, gay and lesbian couples are subject to the same complications and hardships that afflict marriages between heterosexual couples," Robinson wrote. "All of us sincerely intend, when we take our wedding vows, to live up to the ideal of 'till death do us part.'
"But not all of us are able to see this through until death indeed parts us."