What Pope Francis’s comments about gay families could mean for LGBTQ people worldwide

Oct 22, 2020 by

by Samantha Schmidt, Michelle Boorstein and Sarah Pulliam Bailey, Washington Post:

As the pope’s words about gay couples spread to audiences around the world, it wasn’t just his support for the creation of civil unions that stood out. It was his embrace of same-sex couples as part of a family unit — an image that goes beyond a person’s individual legal rights.

“They’re children of God and have a right to a family,” Pope Francis said in a new documentary. “Nobody should be thrown out, or be made miserable because of it.”

The recognition, from one of the most prominent and revered figures in the world, underscores the massive global shift in public opinion on gay rights, a transformation that social scientists say is unlike any other of our time. And some experts on public opinion say the pope’s position could help move attitudes toward acceptance in countries where gay rights have lagged.

“It gives people permission to change their minds,” said Brian Harrison, a political science lecturer at the University of Minnesota who has written about LGBTQ attitudes. “This gives people who have been ambivalent the social cover to say, ‘this is what I’ve thought all along.’ ”

But for others, including many advocates in the LGBTQ community, the pope’s focus on civil unions shows how little has actually changed in the Catholic Church’s stance on same-sex marriage.

“It ends up being an obstacle to reaching equality,” said María Rachid, a politician and LGBTQ rights advocate in Argentina who played a leading role in the campaign to legalize same-sex marriage in the country in 2010, when the now-pope led the Catholic Church there.

Rachid said Pope Francis, then Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio, took a similar position in support of civil unions as he opposed same-sex marriage in the country. “It’s a strategy to prevent marriage,” Rachid said.

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