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Pope Francis Supports Same-Sex Civil Unions

Remarks Bolster Movements to Recognize LGBT Families

Pope Francis attends a inter-religious ceremony for peace in the Basilica of Santa Maria in Aracoeli, in Rome, October 20, 2020.  © 2020 AP Photo/Gregorio Borgia

Pope Francis has called for the recognition of civil union laws that would provide legal protection for same-sex couples.

As part of this recognition, Pope Francis emphasized that gay and lesbian people are “children of God and have a right to a family,” and that “[n]obody should be thrown out, or be made miserable because of it.”

He made the remarks in a new documentary, “Francesco,” about his life and ministry.

In the past, the Vatican has publicly opposed violence and discrimination against LGBT people, including the criminalization of same-sex activity. It has disappointed advocates seeking greater recognition of other LGBT rights, however, including opposition to state efforts to extend legal gender recognition to transgender people.

The comments stop short of calling for marriage equality but are still likely to bolster movements seeking legal protections for same-sex couples, particularly in predominantly Catholic societies. In countries like Paraguay, Poland, and the Philippines, same-sex couples lack basic recognition and protection for their families under the law.

Only 29 countries currently extend the right to marry to same-sex couples, while at least 14 provide civil unions that extend some degree of legal protection to same-sex relationships.  

Regional and international human rights bodies have also affirmed the importance of protecting same-sex couples, with the European Court of Human Rights recognizing the right to legal protections for same-sex relationships and the Inter-American Court of Human Rights recognizing a right to marriage equality.

The Pope’s remarks are likely to resonate in contexts where basic legal recognition is badly needed. But they also boost support for LGBT families at a time when lawmakers and right-wing groups are attempting to weaken nondiscrimination protections in areas like adoption and foster care, often in the name of religion.

The Pope’s remarks may not immediately translate into stronger protections for LGBT people, but they offer a powerful reminder that LGBT families deserve respect and recognition at a time when that fact is too often ignored.

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