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Pope Francis' Backing Same Sex Unions Still Deserves Some Criticism

Pope Francis’ backing same sex unions in Evgeny Afineevsky’s documentary, Francesco, lacks any real substance…

By Tristan Coolman

Pope Francis’ recent support of same-sex civil unions is historic – there is no doubt about it. However, the narrative in almost every news article about it is incredibly misleading. These comments should be celebrated with the criticism it rightfully deserves.

A civil union is not a marriage and The Pope is well aware of this. The term civil union is not one found or promoted by scripture either – it is one that can be put forth by law and policy makers in countries where same-sex marriage is not legal. These are, after all, two separate words with similar intent. This should be enough to indicate that they are separate and not equal in the eyes of the holy see and of Francis himself.

The Pope will not be presiding over civil unions, nor will his church be widely officiating them since scripture and the vast majority of catholic leaders fail to respect LGBTQ2 rights. The Pope does not recognize a person’s right to wed someone of the same sex/gender identity and for that couple to call it a marriage.

Marriage; that word has meaning far beyond its ties to scripture and we all know that. Its cultural meaning is far more significant. When most folks think of marriage nowadays it is not just within the context of a partnership of two people in the eyes of a God, but a life-long commitment to love.  When you are so lucky to see two people share vows and say “I do” you feel the weight of that commitment, a weight that is heavier than the heaviest book of scripture.

Though the gesture from the holy see is welcome, it lacks any substance as the very use of the term “civil union” absolves them of any further actions to support same-sex couples. At the end of it all, its’ still discrimination.

In May of 2019, the Federal government announced the decrease in the waiting period for blood donations for men who have sex with men from a period of one year to three months and called it a “big win”. I remember watching that news story not feeling like it was any kind of “win”. It was a reminder of how I am not equal to many others in this country and if only I choose too abstain from having sex with other men for three months could I have access to that equity.

Those same feelings were stirred by the Pope’s comments as I’m sure it did for many queer people. Though same-sex marriage is legal in Canada, it is not the same in many other countries. And where those words may give hope to some in those countries, they also do not reflect any actionable change as for them hope fades back into a grim reality.

Actions speak louder than words – especially when those actions continue to discriminate against the marginalized.

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