Episcopal Church, or church at all for that matter, is probably not what comes to mind when thinking of gay marriage, but Bishop Gene Robinson is openly gay and is now preparing to get a divorce from his husband. Gene was elected to his New Hampshire position in 2003 and retired last year after 10 years of service. He and his husband, Mark Andrew, had been in a relationship for over 25 years. With the laws forbidding it for a long time, they were not legally bound. However, with the recent changes to the laws, the two married in a private ceremony in 2008.
Robinson and Andrew’s union, like a lot of other homosexual relationships, was criticized by many members of the church. Hundreds of parishes left the Episcopal Church when Robinson was consecrated. He had been active in the Christian community prior to becoming a bishop, and had also already been openly gay. He was the editor of Christianity Today, receiving scrutiny, even then, for his sexuality. Robinson had experience relationship problems in the past, and had also been treated for alcoholism.
This will not be the first divorce for Robinson, who was married to a woman, Isabella “Boo” McDaniel. He had told his ex-wife about his fears of his sexuality prior to their union. They discussed the subject and proceeded to marry. The couple have two daughters together, Jamee and Ella. Robinson has expressed great love for his daughters and that he would never take back the time and relationship that he had with Isabella. They divorced in 1986, which is also the year that he came out publicly. The relationship between the two remained civil even after the divorce. Two years later Robinson met his current spouse, in 1988, while in St. Croix.
The couple appeared to have a strong, and long-lasting relationship. The current divorce, of Bishop Gene Robinson and Mark Andrew, may have the media and the Episcopal Church in a frenzy, but it does not appear to be causing a feud between the two gay men. In interviews discussing the subject Robinson seems to have the utmost respect for his former partner, deeming him a kind and loyal man. Robinson has stated further that he appreciates all of the love and support that his husband has given him over the years. Though separating, he believes that marriage lasts forever, even if it legally comes to an end. He has also expressed the belief that marriage, and divorce, are equal opportunity unions, in that both parties in the union are equally responsible for its outcome.
Robinson has been, and remains to be an advocate for gay rights and marriage equality. He is trying to take a positive outlook on his divorce, seeing it as a representation of similarities in heterosexual and homosexual relationships. He noted that both gay and straight couples face the same hardships, and that all people sincerely mean their wedding vows when they take them. It just happens that sometimes people, despite their sexual orientation or gender, are unable to fully keep those vows for a lifetime.
Bishop Robinson will likely continue to receive backlash, not only from the Episcopal Church for his divorce, but also for being gay. He appears to be an equal opportunity lovers, and divorcee. The fact that he is able to speak admirably about both of his ex-partners is a rare thing. The fact that one is a male and the other a female should not matter. It does not seem to affect him that they are from opposite genders, nor should it be viewed different in the eyes of those outside of their relationship. Divorce is frowned upon no matter who it is with, but if both parties mutually agree upon it, and can be friendly about it, then maybe it really is the best thing. The parties participating in the relationship are the only ones that can make that decision.
Opinion by Latasha Alvaro