In a departure from the position held by the Vatican's doctrinal office, Pope Francis called for the passage of civil union laws for same-sex couples in a documentary that aired in Rome, NBC News noted.
"Homosexuals have a right to be part of the family," the pontiff said in Francescoa documentary about his life, according to the Catholic News Agency. "They're children of God and have a right to a family. Nobody should be thrown out, or be made miserable because of it.
"What we have to create is a civil union law. That way, they are legally covered. I stood up for that."
Francis spoke in a section of the movie about Andrea Rubera, a gay man who adopted three children with his partner. The movie also features Juan Carlos Cruz, a Chilean survivor of clergy sexual abuse. Cruz said that during their first meetings in 2018, Francis assured him that God made him gay.
"Pope Francis took a significant step for inclusion and acceptance in the Catholic Church by embracing unions for same-sex couples and affirming that LGBTQ Catholics are a part of their religious family," said Human Rights Campaign President Alphonso David in a statement. "By shifting Catholic theology in a more inclusive direction and making clear that LGBTQ people have a right to their own families, Pope Francis is letting LGBTQ Catholics know that being a person of faith and being LGBTQ are not mutually exclusive."
"If true, the Pope's comments could represent an international game-changer and a major step forward for LGBTQI equality," said Marianne Duddy-Burke, executive director of pro-LGBTQ Catholic organization DignityUSA. "It would remove a key obstacle to LGBTQI inclusion in many places around the world, especially in areas where LGBTQI people are especially vulnerable to discrimination and violence. Civil unions laws can provide essential legal protections to LGBTQI couples and their children. We hope that Catholic officials worldwide will work to provide essential legal and social protections for LGBTQI people and their families.
"While pleased by the news reports, we wonder how the Pope's comments fit with existing Catholic teachings that condemn same-sex relationships as 'intrinsically evil.' We hope that Pope Francis will take steps to enshrine support for same-sex couples, LGBTQI individuals, and our families in official Catholic teachings and will work to formally end Catholic teachings that are hurtful to LGBTQI people. While the Catechism of the Catholic Church has long condemned 'unjust discrimination' against LGBTQI people, it still refers to 'homosexual tendencies' as 'objectively disordered.' This language continues to serve as the basis of so much discrimination, exclusion, violence, and hate against LGBTQI people and our families."
"We applaud Pope Francis for his wise and compassionate support for legalizing same-sex relationships," said Truth Wins Out Executive Director Wayne Besen in another statement. "We call on the destructive 'ex-gay' Catholic organization Courage International to immediately shut down in light of these commentsunless, of course, they think they are more Catholic than the pope."