A New Hampshire clergyman is a step closer to becoming the first openly gay elected bishop in the Episcopal Church.
The church's House of Deputies has voted overwhelmingly to approve the Reverend Gene Robinson, who faces a final vote today in the House of Bishops.
Robinson, a 56-year-old divorced father of two, has lived with his partner, Mark Andrew, for 13 years.
Bishops who believe gay sex is a sin say the approval of Robinson will weaken and divide the denomination, and spark a bitter fight over parish property and funds.
But liberals say the threat has been exaggerated, and note that many conservatives had pledged to break ties before over issues such as ordaining women but did not follow through.