The Right Reverend Gene Robinson is recognized as the first priest in an openly gay relationship to be consecrated a bishop in any major Christian denomination when he became a bishop in the Episcopal Diocese of New Hampshire in 2003. Robinson has stated that he privately acknowledged his sexuality as far back as the 1970s, when he attended seminary, but like so many gay men at the time (especially those working in religion), he suppressed his feelings and married instead. His wife, Boo, was aware of his sexuality when they married in 1972 and started a family and business together in subsequent years. Robinson eventually came out publicly in the 1980s and left his wife. He met his partner in 1988 (the two would marry twenty years later, though the relationship ended in 2014), the same year he became assistant to the bishop of New Hampshire, a position he remained in until his election seventeen years later. In this time, Robinson was an advocate for AIDS education in the Church and antiracism training within his diocese and beyond. He also fought for better access to healthcare in New Hampshire and debt relief for impoverished nations.
Robinson's election led to much controversy, as his sexuality was a contentious topic. Conservatives within the Episcopal Church eventually split and formed a new Church under much stricter laws. In the following years, Robinson was falsely accused of sexual harassment by a male parishioner; he had to frequently wear bulletproof vests in public; and he required bodyguards as threats were made to his life. Less than three years after his consecration, Robinson even sought treatment for alcoholism, an extension of the pressures and threats he'd faced over his election. Since then, Robinson has become a prominent (and in some cases, the only) voice for gay Christians. He has opposed the Roman Catholic ban on gay seminarians and opposed Prop 8, working alongside the Human Rights Campaign, Lambda Legal, GLAAD, and others to ensure civil rights for LGBT people. He delivered the invocation at President Obama's 2009 inauguration and later that year made the Out list of most influential gays and lesbians in America. He remains one of the most prominent figures in the world to advocate for the joining of sexuality and spirituality.