Openly gay Episcopal Bishop Gene Robinson of New Hampshire will enter an official civil union with his partner of 20 years, Mark Andrew, in June.
Robinson's 2003 consecration as bishop caused a serious rupture that continues to grow in the worldwide Anglican Communion, of which the Episcopal Church is the U.S. branch.
Robinson, who has received death threats, said he wants to get formally partnered to protect Andrew before going to August's Anglican Communion Lambeth Conference in England. The gathering of some 800 bishops from around the globe happens only once a decade.
Robinson has been banned from the conference's official sessions by the Anglican spiritual leader, Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams. He plans to take part in auxiliary events.
Conservative Anglican bishops and laity also are upset that the U.S. and Canadian branches of the communion have refused to block local churches from conducting blessings of same-sex couples.