CONCORD, N.H. — Days before he is to take over as the Episcopal church's leader in New Hampshire, Bishop V. Gene Robinson said he'd marry his same-sex partner "in a minute" if he had the chance.

Robinson, whose election as the church's first openly gay bishop last year had divided Episcopalians, said Friday that the gay marriage issue is one of civil rights.

"It is very irritating to me that Britney Spears, when she traipsed off to be married in Las Vegas, instantly had what my partner and I of 15 years do not have," he told The Associated Press.

Robinson takes over in a Sunday ceremony from retiring Bishop Douglas Theuner at a time when the debate over gay rights, including marriage, is making headlines nationwide.

Robinson's election has been denounced by conservatives in the United States and abroad who say the Episcopal Church is operating in violation of Scripture.

Robinson has testified at the New Hampshire statehouse in opposition to a proposed law that would prohibit the state from recognizing gay marriages approved by other states.

He said he'll continue to speak out in favor of civil unions for gays — something he says is entirely separate from whether any church chooses to bless the union.

Robinson said the legal status of his own relationship with his longtime partner, Mark Andrew, especially worried him before Andrew's family accepted him.

"I had a great fear that if Mark was to be killed in a car accident that his family could come in and just take his body — that I would never have access to him either in the hospital or at the funeral home or at the grave," Robinson said.

"That's an unnerving thing," he said. "I'd be married in a minute if I was allowed to."

In the absence of marriage or civil union, Robinson and Andrew put together legal agreements to give each other power of attorney and to share their assets through trusts. But these cover only a fraction of the rights they'd have if their relationship was recognized by the state, he said.