The former bishop played a pivotal role in gay rights and the church when he was involved in a heresy trial. After hiring a non-celibate homosexual deacon in 1990, Righter was accused of heresy, or false teaching, by the Episcopal Church.

In 1996, the Church ruled that church doctrine did not explicitly ban the ordination of practicing homosexuals. The victory for Righter also served as a win for gay rights in the Church. It was the first heresy case in the Church since the 1920s.

In 1997, Episcopal Church’s triennial General Convention issued an apology to gays and lesbians for “years of rejection and maltreatment by the church.”