Pope Francis has endorsed civil unions for same-sex couples.
It’s a major move for the leader of the Roman Catholic Church, which considers same-sex relationships sinful. It’s not an endorsement of church marriage, nor civil marriage equality, but it’s a huge step forward.
Francis made the remark in a new documentary, Francesco, which premiered in Rome Wednesday.
“What we have to create is a civil union law. That way they are legally covered,” the pope said in the film.
“They’re children of God and have a right to a family,” he continued. “Nobody should be thrown out or be made miserable because of it.”
The timing of the remarks isn’t clear, but filmmaker Evgeny Afineevsky told the Times Francis made the comments directly to him for the documentary. Francis had endorsed civil unions when he was archbishop of Buenos Aires, but this is the first such statement he’s made as pope.
Ever since he became pope in 2013, Francis has taken a more conciliatory tone toward LGBTQ+ people than his predecessors, beginning with his famous “Who am I to judge?” comment about gay priests. He has met with gay and transgender people, who have spoken warmly about their interactions with him.
But personal relationships are one thing, and for church doctrine something else. The pope has consistently reiterated the church’s stance that sexual relations are reserved for married heterosexual couples and that gender is God-given, fixed at birth, and immutable.