Gene Robinson, an openly gay man whose appointment as Bishop of New Hampshire continues to cause controversy, has given evidence in favour of same-sex civil unions.

Last week the New Hampshire House of Representatives voted to bring forward legal unions by a margin of two-to-one, and this week the state Senate will consider the bill.

“This legislation simply has nothing do to with religious bodies and their affirmation or rejection of such unions in the civil realm,” Bishop Robinson told a state committee hearing.

“What we seek in the civil realm is the equal treatment by the state government in supporting this development of our relationship with the legal, financial, and societal underpinnings which are afforded married couples at the very moment they say ‘I do.'”

State senators at the committee were divided on the new legislation.

One, Gary Francoeur, asked fellow lawmakers to vote against civil unions, even though he has a lesbian daughter.

“My heart aches today as I watch the consequences of the sin in their lives,” he said.

His daughter “knows the law of the land yet she chooses to live a homosexual lifestyle,” he said, according to AP.

In contrast, State senator Martha Fuller Clark said she wanted all her children of whatever sexuality to have equal rights.

If the bill passes the state legislature it will have to be signed by New Hampshire Governor John Lynch to become law.

Mr Lynch is known to oppose gay marriage but has not yet made up his mind on civil unions.

Massachusetts has legal same-sex marriage and Vermont, New Jersey, and Connecticut have allowed civil unions.