Throughout history, religion has been locked in an ongoing battle with LGBTQ+ rights.
Homophobic advocators often quote the Bible when defending their opposition to the LGBTQ+ community. It’s one of the reasons it took so long for same–sex marriage to be legalized, and it’s why so many religious people are still pushing against LGBTQ+ rights.
Yet recently, Pope Francis declared in a biographical documentary that he supports same–sex civil unions and is against ostracizing people simply for being in the LGBTQ+ community. In describing same–sex unions, the Pope said, “What we have to create is a civil union law. That way they are legally covered.”
To be clear, civil unions are not the same thing as marriages. Civil unions are legal relationships between two people that can protect couples at a state level, but not at a federal one. While civil unions are similar to marriage, there are a few stark differences. For one, because they're at a state level, these legal relationships may not be valid if moved across states. People engaged in a civil union also do not have rights to federal benefits, and are not technically in a marriage.
The news about the Pope’s sudden endorsement of LGBTQ+ rights led to a lot of controversy. Many avi`d Christians were confused about how the teachings of the Church could change based on what the Pope said. And even though the Pope has been supportive of civil unions in the past, this is the first time he’s publicly stated it. After all, the Pope is the head of the Catholic religion, so this support for gay couples could lead to pushes for legalization of same–sex civil unions in countries where it’s currently not allowed.
While a lot of people are praising the Pope for his endorsement, his words still don't say much about building a bridge between religion and the LGBTQ+ community. It should be noted that he has not actually said anything in support of gay marriage. He’s actually stated the opposite in the past, declaring that marriage should remain between simply a man and a woman. On top of that, the Pope has also made his stance on same–sex adoption clear when he said that children would be “deprived of their human development given by a father and a mother and willed by God,” and that, “...every person needs a male father and a female mother that can help them shape their identity.”
So while the Pope is endorsing same–sex civil unions, he’s still maintaining the boundary between gay and straight people. He’s drawing a clear line between straight people who are allowed to participate in "real marriages” and gay people who are constrained to simple civil unions. His words in the documentary do not change what he’s said in the past with relation to LGBTQ+ rights. Therefore, as great as it is that he is supportive and encouraging people to accept LGBTQ+ family members, he’s still not supporting LGBTQ+ rights.
Still, there's hope that his words may create change in countries where same–sex relationships are entirely illegal. Hopefully, this is at least a stepping stone towards a more inclusive religious environment, and a step in a more progressive direction for the LGBTQ+ community worldwide.