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First openly gay Episcopal bishop plans to divorce

Gene Robinson (left) is now a senior fellow at a Democratic think tank.

Jonathan Ernst/Reuters

Gene Robinson (left) is now a senior fellow at a Democratic think tank.

NEW YORK — The first openly gay Episcopal bishop, who became a symbol for gay rights far beyond the church while deeply dividing the world’s Anglicans, plans to divorce his husband.

Bishop Gene Robinson announced the end of his marriage to Mark Andrew in an e-mail sent to the Diocese of New Hampshire, where he served for nine years before retiring in 2012.

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Robinson would not disclose details about the end of their 25-year relationship but wrote Sunday in The Daily Beast he owed a debt to Andrew ‘‘for standing by me through the challenges of the last decade.’’

‘‘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.’’

Robinson has never been fully accepted within the more than 70 million-member Anglican Communion, which is rooted in the Church of England and represented in the United States by the Episcopal Church.

The bishop endured death threats during his 2003 consecration and intense scrutiny of his personal life, and in 2006, he sought treatment for alcoholism. His election prompted some Episcopal dioceses and parishes to break away and establish the Anglican Church in North America with other theological conservatives overseas.

Robinson was widely celebrated as a pioneer for gay rights, became an advocate for gay marriage, and was the subject of several books and a documentary about Christianity, the Bible, and same-sex relationships. He delivered the benediction at the opening 2009 inaugural event for President Obama and, after retirement, became a senior fellow at the Center for American Progress, a Democratic think tank with close ties to the White House.

Robinson, 66, had been married to a woman and had two children before he and his wife divorced. He and Andrew had been partners for more than a decade when Robinson was elected to lead the New Hampshire diocese. The two men were joined in a 2008 civil union in New Hampshire, which became a legal marriage when the state recognized gay marriage two years later.

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