VATICAN CITY (NEXSTAR) — Pope Francis endorsed same-sex civil unions for the first time as pope while being interviewed for the feature-length documentary “Francesco,” which had its premiere at the Rome Film Festival on Wednesday.
The papal thumbs up came midway through the film that delves into issues he cares about most, including the environment, poverty, migration, racial and income inequality, and the people most affected by discrimination.
“What we have to create is a civil union law. That way they are legally covered,” the pope said, according to Catholic News Agency. “I stood up for that.”
“Homosexual people have the right to be in a family. They are children of God,” Francis said in one of his sit-down interviews for the film.
Pope Francis went on to say LGBTQ individuals have a right to “be a part of the family” saying they’re children of God.
“Nobody should be thrown out, or be made miserable because of it,” Pope Francis added.
For Rick Garcia, a long-time advocate for the LGBTQ community and practicing Roman Catholic, the comments are a monumental step forward.
“It is huge you know here in the U.S., gay couples are protected, but that isn’t the same way over the world,” Garcia said.
Garcia added the comments may have made some feel the Pope should have gone a step further in referring to marriage, rather than unions.
“I think some people might be uncomfortable with what they want marriage but for others it is so significant,” Garcia said.
While serving as archbishop of Buenos Aires, Francis endorsed civil unions for gay couples as an alternative to same-sex marriages. However, he had never come out publicly in favor of civil unions as pope.
Director Evgeny Afineevsky had remarkable access to cardinals, the Vatican television archives and the pope himself. He said he negotiated his way in through persistence, and deliveries of Argentine mate tea and Alfajores cookies that he got to the pope via some well-connected Argentines in Rome.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.