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Same-sex marriage and civil unions


Pope Francis calls for worldwide recognition
of same-sex Civil Union relationships!

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2010 and 2020: Pope Francis of the Roman Catholic Church proposed legalization of civil unions, first in Argentina and now worldwide:

Argentina has had a history of accepting homosexual activity and same-sex relationships. Before the Spanish invasion,the Mapuche and Guarani people occupied much of what is now Argentina. Both groups either "... accepted same-sex relationships or viewed them with indifference." 1 These beliefs have positively influenced the widespread acceptance of homosexuality in Argentina today.

While Pope Francis was serving as the Roman Catholic Archbishop of Buenos Aires in Argentina, the federal government in that country introduced proposed legislation that would allow same-sex couples to marry. At the time, Pope Francis suggested that a better path forward would be to develop a system of civil unions for same-sex couples which would have many of the privileges of marriage, while not being called "marriages."

The Argentinian government proceeded to pass a law on 2010-JUL-15 that legalized same-sex marriages. This was about five years after Canada's Federal Governemtn had passed its same-sex marriage law, and about five years before the Supreme Court legalized same-sex marriage in the U.S.

Argentina became the first country in Latin America, the second in the the Americas, and the tenth country in the world to do so.

During 2020-OCT, Pope Francis called for the worldwide recognition of same-sex relationships, through the creation of civil union laws. That would give same-sex couples many of the protections and recognitions routinely given to opposite-sex married couples, without recognizing their relationship as a marriage. He made these remarks in a new documentary film, "Francesco," which was released in Rome on 2020-OCT-21 during the Rome Film Festival.

He said that:

"Homosexual people have a right to be in a family. They're children of God and have a right to a family. Nobody should be thrown out or be made miserable over it. What we have to create is a civil union law." 2,3

A review of the historical changes in U.S. legislation related to homosexual activity and committed relationships:

The changes started with the decriminalization of same-sex sexual activity and led to same-sex marriage:

In early colonial days, homosexual activity was considered a serious criminal act that could trigger the death penalty in some states for those tried and found guilty. The death penalty was justified on the basis of a number of Biblical passages, as churches interpreted them at the time.

The path to same-sex marriage in the U.S. involved a number of steps

  • Homosexual activity was decriminalized in some liberal U.S. states starting in 1962. Since 2003-JUN-26, it has been legal throughout the U.S. as a result of the decision by the U.S. Supreme Court in the case Lawrence v. Texas.

  • The next cause promoted by the LGBT (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender) community was the creation of civil unions. These recognized same-sex relationships, and granted partners some of the legal protections of marriage, but did not recognize their unions as "real" marriages. Their activity was successful in having civil union legislation implemented in many U.S. states.

  • Once civil unions became widely available, the LGBT community switched to its final goal: the promotion of same-sex marriage. That is, legislation to widen the definition of marriage to include both opposite-sex and same-sex couples. Such marriages were legalized in Canada during 2005 by passage of a Federal law. They were legalized throughout the U.S. during 2015 as a result of the U.S. Supreme Court's ruling in the case "Obergefell v. Hodges." An exception is a U.S. Territory, American Samoa, where such marriages remain unrecognized as of late 2020. Persons born in American Samoa are regarded as American residents, but not American citizens. Thus, legal rulings by the U.S. Supreme Court are not necessarily binding in that territory.

  • Currently, much activity by the LGBT community is working towards the acceptance of transgender persons: individuals who identify their gender as different from that implied by their sexuality as identified at birth.

As of the year 2020:

  • 72% of U.S. adults favor the legalization of sexually active relationships between adults of the same sex; 24% are opposed. The percentages of both acceptance and opposition are currently relatively stable.

  • 67% of U.S. adults favor the legal recognition of same-sex relationships as valid, with the same rights as opposite-sex marriages; 31% are opposed. Acceptance is increasing while opposition is decreasing. 4

The Roman Catholic Church has been modifying its teaching about homosexuality. Some priests now bless sincere same-sex relationships. Pope Francis' stance on civil unions may lead to additional changes in the Church that follow the above sequence experienced in the U.S.

Reverend David Mellott was a Catholic priest between 1992 and 2002. He left the church and is now president of the Christian Theological Seminary and an ordained minister with the United Church of Christ. He is one of few seminary presidents in the country who is openly gay. He said the pope’s statement was cause for celebration. He said he didn’t think this kind of announcement would happen in his lifetime. 3 He commented:

"That’s such a significant statement, and it’s (from) the lead theologian for the Roman Catholic Church. This is sending a strong signal, not only to Roman Catholics, but also to the wider Christian community."

J.D. Greear, President of the Southern Baptist Convention, disapproved of the Pope's stand. He said:

"No matter what a pope, pastor or elected official says, we do not get to define sexuality or the family. The Creator does, and on this His word could not be more clear."

The Baptist Faith and Message 2000 defines same-sex sexual activity as sin. It restricts marriage to "the uniting of one man and one woman in covenant commitment for a lifetime."

Salvatore J. Cordileone, the Roman Catholic Archbishop of San Francisco, responded:

"In our bishops region’s audience with Pope Francis last January during our ad limina visit -- the visit diocesan bishops make every five years to the Vatican -- the topic of civil unions came up in conversation.  The Holy Father clearly differentiated between a civil arrangement which accords mutual benefits to two people, and marriage.  The former, he said, can in no way be equated to marriage, which remains unique.

I would add that a civil union of this type (one which is not equated to marriage) should be as inclusive as possible, and not be restricted to two people of the same sex in a presumed sexual relationship.  There is no reason, for example, why a brother and a sister, both of whom are unmarried and support each other, should not have access to these kinds of benefits.  Marriage is unique because it is the only institution that connects children to their mothers and fathers, and therefore is presumed to be a sexual relationship. Indeed, the sexual relationship that marriage is presumed to involve is the only kind by which children are naturally made. The nature of marriage, the place of sex within a virtuous life, these great teachings of the Church come to us from God, are illuminated by reason, and do not change." 6

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Reactions to Pope Francis' comments:

Paul Elie, writing for the New Yorker magazine, said:

"James Martin, a Jesuit priest with an active ministry to L.G.B.T.Q. people, whom Francis met at the Vatican last year, described them on Twitter as 'historic.' He wrote, 'What makes Pope Francis comments supporting same-sex civil unions today so momentous? First, he is saying them as Pope, not Archbishop of Buenos Aires. Second, he is clearly supporting, not simply tolerating, civil unions. Third, he is saying it on camera, not privately.'

Bishop Thomas Tobin, of Providence, Rhode Island (who, in August, insinuated on Twitter that the Democratic Presidential nominee, Joe Biden, isn’t a true Catholic), sought clarification from Rome. 'The Pope’s statement clearly contradicts what has been the long-standing teaching of the Church about same-sex unions,' Tobin said in a statement. ..."

"A full recognition of gay people will have profound consequences for the Church’s teachings about marriage, the family, personhood, bioethics, celibacy, sex among the clergy—about human sexuality on the whole. At some point, the Church is going to have to address it all directly, through an encyclical letter, or a synod, or even an ecumenical council on the human person—a Vatican III, which would bring the Church into the twenty-first century as Vatican II brought it, belatedly, into the twentieth."  8

Doug Mainwaring, writing for Life Site News, listed some very negative responses by Protestant leaders to Pope Francis' statement:

  • Evangelist Franklin Graham, son of the late Rev. Billy Graham, said: "The news has reported that Pope Francis said in a new documentary that ‘homosexuals have a right to be part of the family’ and is calling for civil union laws for same-sex couples. I find these comments from the Pope unthinkable in light of the Word of God. For Pope Francis to attempt to normalize homosexuality is to say that Holy Scriptures are false, that our sins really don’t matter, and that we can continue living in them. If that were true, then Jesus Christ’s death, burial, and resurrection wouldn’t have been needed. The cross would have been for nothing. No one has the right or the authority to trivialize Christ’s sacrifice on our behalf."

    He quoted Acts 3:19 in the Bible: "Repent therefore and be converted, that your sins may be blotted out, so that times of refreshing may come from the presence of the Lord."

  • President J. D. Greear of the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) said: "No matter what a pope, pastor or elected official says, we do not get to define sexuality or the family. The Creator does, and on this His word could not be more clear."

  • Ronnie Floyd, president and CEO of the SBC Executive Committee, said: "Our authority does not come from a man or a group of men and women, but from the Bible alone. When the Bible speaks, God speaks. The Bible teaches marriage is the uniting of one man and one woman in covenant commitment for a lifetime. ... Other faiths may choose other authorities to determine their beliefs on marriage, family, sexuality and other matters of life. However, as Baptists we believe the Bible has God for its author, salvation for its end and truth, without any mixture of error, for its matter. Therefore, all Scripture is totally true and trustworthy. We need not add anything to the Bible about marriage, family, sexuality or anything else because the Bible is God’s perfect treasure of divine instruction."

  • Russell Moore, president of the SBC Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission, said: "Every wing of the church — Catholic, Protestant, Orthodox — has for 2,000 years affirmed Jesus’ view of marriage — that marriage is, from the beginning, a union between a man and a woman in covenant fidelity to one another. ... We ought to treat everyone justly and with compassion, including those with whom we disagree, but no church has the authority to put asunder what Christ has joined together in the Word He has given to us."  7

This topic continues with an article about Hungary banning same-sex marriages

References used:

  1. "LGBT rights in Argentina," Wikipedia, as on 2020-OCT-20, at:
  2. Chico Harlan % Michelle Boorstein, "Pope Francis calls for civil union laws for same-sex couples," The Washington Post, 2020-OCT-21, at:
  3. Jordan Erb, "Hoosiers react to Pope Francis' endorsement of same-sex civil unions," Indianapolis Star, 2020-OCT-21, at:
  4. "Gay and Lesbian Rights, Gallup, 2020 at:
  5. George Schroeder, "Baptists respond to pope’s endorsement of same-sex civil unions," Baptist Press, 2020-OCT-21, at:
  6. Emma Powys Maurice, "Archbishop compares same-sex relationships to ‘brother and sister’ unions after Pope’s historic endorsement of LGBT+ rights," Pink News, 2020-OCT-22, at:
  7. "Franklin Graham, evangelicals condemn Pope Francis’ support for gay civil unions," Life Site News, 2020-OCT-27, at:
  8. Paul Elie, "Pope Francis Supports Same-Sex Civil Unions, but the Church Must Do More," The New Yorker, 2020-OCT-25, at:

Copyright © 2020 by Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance
Originally written: 2020-OCT-22
Latest update: 2020-OCT-28
Author: B.A. Robinson

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