'I leave this job loving it more than when I started'
Gene Robinson made history back in 2003 when he became the first openly gay man to be ordained a bishop in a major Christian denomination.
On 5 January, the 65-year-old is stepping down as a New Hampshire Episcopal Bishop and is reflecting on what has changed nearly a decade after the international uproar that came when he undertook the high-profile job.
‘We went from my consecration, which set off this international controversy, to nine years later seeing gay, lesbian and transgender congregants welcome at all levels of the church, including bishop,’ he tells the Associated Press.
Robinson endured death threats and being shunned by church elders and also struggled with the label of ‘gay priest.’ But he eventually embraced the opportunity and his position to advocate for LGBT equality.
Robinson and long-time partner Mark Andrew entered into a civil union in 2008 and have been married since 2010 when same-sex marriage became legal in New Hamshpire.
He did not face mandatory retirement until the age of 72 but Robinson began to think about once their was another LGBT person in his ranks. In 2009, Mary Glasspool was elected to lead the diocese of Los Angeles and became the first openly gay woman to do so.
‘Now I can move on to do other things,’ he says. ‘I leave this job loving it more than when I started. I think the excitement about the future is finally outweighing the grief over the loss.’