Skip to main content

Sign up for our newsletter.

Quality journalism. Progressive values. Direct to your inbox.

Pope Francis speaking to the European Parliament in 2014. (Photo: EU/flickr/cc)

Pope Francis Signals 'Historic' Shift for Catholic Church, Publicly Supporting Civil Unions for Same-Sex Couples

The pope won praise for "pushing the Church into the 21st Century."

Julia Conley

Catholic leaders and observers of the Vatican witnessed "a major step forward" for the Catholic Church Wednesday after Pope Francis indicated his support for civil unions for same-sex couples, breaking with the church's long-held official teachings. 

In the documentary "Francesco," which premiered at the Rome Film Festival Wednesday, the pope called for a "civil union law" to ensure gay and lesbian couples have the same legal rights as married straight couples. 

"Homosexual people have a right to be in a family," he said in the film. "They are children of God and have a right to a family. Nobody should be thrown out or made miserable over it."

Couples should be "legally covered" under a law allowing civil unions, Francis said, adding, "I stood up for that."

As Archbishop of Buenos Aires, the pope supported legal protections for gay couples while opposing same-sex marriage.

While Francis did not indicate that the church would change its thinking on marriages any time soon, his statement in the film—and a scene in which he encouraged a gay couple to attend the Catholic Church with their children—was a far cry from guidance released by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith in 2003.

Regarding "Considerations regarding proposals to give legal recognition to unions between homosexual persons," the church—then led by Francis's predecessor, Pope Benedict XVI—wrote, "The Church teaches that respect for homosexual persons cannot lead in any way to approval of homosexual behavior or to legal recognition of homosexual unions."

Jesuit priest James Martin tweeted that the pope's appearance in the film "is a major step forward in the church's support for LGBTQ people," which could have positive effects on the treatment of LGBTQIA people around the world. 

U.S. Rep. Ted Lieu (D-Calif.), who is Catholic, applauded the pope's remarks. 

Since being elected to replace Benedict in 2013, Pope Francis has been outspoken about a number of social issues and progressive causes, indicating his desire to lead a church which defends the rights of all people and which speaks out against numerous forms of injustice.

Earlier this month, the pope condemned "the destructive effects of the empire of money" and skyrocketing inequality during the coronavirus pandemic, and he has spoken several times in recent years about the need to end fossil fuel extraction in order to save the planet.  

The pope also called on the church to keep "open doors" for divorced people who remarry; held a private meeting with a Diego Neria Lejarraga, a transgender man, and reportedly embraced Lejarraga when he asked whether there was a place for him in the church; and said shortly after he was named head of the Catholic Church that he would welcome gay Catholics—in contrast with his predecessor, who referred to homosexuality as an "intrinsic moral evil."

"If someone is gay and he searches for the Lord and has good will, who am I to judge?" said Francis in July 2013.  


Our work is licensed under Creative Commons (CC BY-NC-ND 3.0). Feel free to republish and share widely.

We've had enough. The 1% own and operate the corporate media. They are doing everything they can to defend the status quo, squash dissent and protect the wealthy and the powerful. The Common Dreams media model is different. We cover the news that matters to the 99%. Our mission? To inform. To inspire. To ignite change for the common good. How? Nonprofit. Independent. Reader-supported. Free to read. Free to republish. Free to share. With no advertising. No paywalls. No selling of your data. Thousands of small donations fund our newsroom and allow us to continue publishing. Can you chip in? We can't do it without you. Thank you.

Dems Sound Alarm as Key US Vaccine Agency 'Running Out of Money'

"We cannot afford to waste another moment and risk the emergence of yet another, even more dangerous variant," Democratic lawmakers write in a new letter.

Jake Johnson ·


UN Officials Warn of 'Record-Shattering Month' for Civilian Deaths in Yemen

Following deadly strikes by the Saudi-led coalition, Oxfam is calling on the U.N. Security Council to condemn attacks on Yemenis and to "inject new urgency" into peace talks.

Jessica Corbett ·


Experts Say Nuclear Energy as Climate Solution Is Total 'Fiction'

"The reality is nuclear is neither clean, safe, or smart; but a very complex technology with the potential to cause significant harm."

Jessica Corbett ·


Air and Water Under Threat as SCOTUS Targets Environmental Laws

"It seems like we have a new conservative supermajority on the court that is much more inclined to do a slash-and-burn expedition through our major environmental laws."

Julia Conley ·


'Historic Turning Point': Cuba Issues Plan for Vaccine Internationalism

"This lifesaving package," said the head of Progressive International's delegation to Cuba, exemplifies public health and science being "placed above private profit and petty nationalism."

Kenny Stancil ·

Support our work.

We are independent, non-profit, advertising-free and 100% reader supported.

Subscribe to our newsletter.

Quality journalism. Progressive values.
Direct to your inbox.

Subscribe to our Newsletter.


Common Dreams, Inc. Founded 1997. Registered 501(c3) Non-Profit | Privacy Policy
Common Dreams Logo