Pope Francis shared a message of solidarity with the LGBTQ community in an interview with the Associated Press Tuesday, along with a call-to-action for millions of Catholics around the world.
Laws criminalizing gay people is “unjust”, and being gay “is not a crime,” said Pope Francis.
The Pope also called for the Roman Catholic Church to play an active role in opposing and repealing LGBTQ criminalization laws, recognizing that some bishops who advocate for criminalization and discrimination laws against the LGBTQ community must undergo “a process of conversion,” welcome LGBTQ people into the church, noting “it’s also a sin to lack charity with one another.”
For Sarah Kate Ellis, GLAAD President & CEO, Pope Francis’ declaration is an explicit call to keep the momentum for LGBTQ decriminalization and equality.
“Pope Francis denounced laws in nearly 70 countries that criminalize LGBTQ people and called on the Roman Catholic Church to take an active role in repealing those laws. His historic statement should send a message to world leaders and millions of Catholics around the world: LGBTQ people deserve to live in a world without violence and condemnation, and more kindness and understanding. Other influential voices in faith, government, business, sports, and entertainment should now similarly speak out on outdated laws that criminalize the lives and relationships of LGBTQ people and that negatively impact travel and business in these countries,” said Ellis in a statement.
“Today’s statements from Pope Francis are a game changer in the fight to decriminalize LGBTQ people and also illustrate the work that needs to be done with religious leaders to finally show that being LGBTQ is not a sin,” Ellis continued.
Pope Francis denounced laws in nearly 70 countries that criminalize LGBTQ people and called on the Roman Catholic Church to take an active role in repealing those laws. (1/4)https://t.co/pDMW7K9NZV
— Sarah Kate Ellis (@sarahkateellis) January 25, 2023
Last week, GLAAD continued their work to raise awareness about the criminalization of LGBTQ people around the world by speaking at this year’s World Economic Forum Annual Meeting in Davos.
This was an incredible initiative to see at @wef, @TheBeckBailey! We’re proud to have organized this with you at @GLAAD along with PGLE and Accenture. Looking forward to continuing our work together next year and beyond. #WEF23 https://t.co/CJrf8LIeiU
— Sarah Kate Ellis (@sarahkateellis) January 24, 2023
The AP notes more than a dozen states in the U.S. have anti-sodomy laws on the books despite a Supreme Court decision in 2003 declaring them unconstitutional. In his concurrence in the decision overturning Roe v Wade, Associate Justice Clarence Thomas called for the Lawrence ruling to be reconsidered.
In the U.S. about 90 anti-LGBTQ laws have already been introduced, 67 countries criminalize same-sex relationships of consensual adults, 46 of those countries deliberately target women in same-sex relationships, with 11 using the death penalty as punishment.
Yet, each year more and more countries decriminalize their anti-LGBTQ penal codes. This year Singapore, Barbados, St. Kitts and Nevis, and Antigua and Barbuda have taken action toward decriminalization of LGBTQ same-sex relationships. At the same time, several countries, including the U.S., the United Kingdom, Hungary, Ghana, and Indonesia, have recently passed various laws that discriminate against LGBTQ people and organizations.
With this said, Pope Francis did not speak on behalf of the laws, crimes and violences facing the transgender communities of the world. In 2022 there were 327 reported murders of trans and gender-diverse people in the world at the hands of anti-trans violence, according to ILGA-Europe’s annual Trans Murder Monitoring Report.
Religious organizations and leaders share Ellis’ sentiment to protect LGBTQ communities in the U.S. and beyond, while changing hearts and minds in the process.
“An immense step forward. Pope Francis calls for the decriminalization of homosexuality worldwide,” Tweeted Jesuit Father James Martin
Pope Francis’s historic call for the decriminalization of homosexuality worldwide is an immense step forward for #LGBTQ people, their families and all who love them. This is the first time that any Pope has made such a clear statement about this issue of life and death…
— James Martin, SJ (@JamesMartinSJ) January 25, 2023
DignityUSA, the self-proclaimed oldest Catholic group advocating for LGBTQ rights, say the Vatican’s stance on LGBTQ rights could improve the lives of LGBTQ people world-wide.
“Since the Vatican led the opposition to a 2010 United Nations proposal to decriminalize homosexuality DignityUSA has repeatedly challenged our church leaders to reverse this stance,” said Marianne Duddy-Burke, DignityUSA’s executive director. DignityUSA has led nationwide witnesses at cathedrals across the U.S. for this purpose, while advocating for Pope Francis to make a statement like this when he visited Africa in 2015. Duddy-Burke, who was also an advisor to the State Department on faith and LGBTQ+ issues during the Obama administration, urged both Secretary of State Kerry and President Obama to make LGBTQ acceptance their top priority when they visited with Pope Francis.
“It is critical that the church’s bishops immediately end any support they have given to laws that make being gay or same-sex relationships illegal. We also call on Catholics in our own country and around the world to support equality and non-violence for their LGBTQIA+ neighbors,” said Duddy-Burke.
New Ways Ministry Executive Director Francis DiBernardo shares much of DiginityUSA’s sentiment.
“Most important, the pope highlights that being LGBTQ+ is not sinful and criminal, but harming one’s neighbor is most certainly both. That simple principle is a bedrock of Catholic teaching,” said DiBernardo in a statement. “It is shameful that in some nations where criminalization exists or has been proposed, Catholic bishops and other leaders have been in the forefront of supporting such abhorrent measures. The pope’s statement will help end this tragic record of church leaders’ complicity with the scourge of criminalization.”
DiBernardo offers a call-to-action himself. The pope, from January 30 to February 5, will take an apostolic journey to South Sudan. There DiBernardo hopes that he will speak out against Sudan’s LGBTQ criminalization laws and continue to spread his message as he’s announced to the AP.
Additionally, Charlotte Clymer, former press secretary of the Human Rights Campaign, says the pope’s statement “… is arguably the strongest statment of support for LGBTQ rights from Francis since the beginning of his papacy,” in a Tweet.
This is arguably the strongest statement of support for LGBTQ rights from Francis since the beginning of his papacy. Over the years, he has periodically made headlines with his openness on topics of sexual morality.
— Charlotte Clymer (@cmclymer) January 25, 2023
Dunja Mijatovic, the Council of Europe’s Human Rights Commissioner, reiterated Pope Francis’ sentiment for global LGBTQ support in a Tweet.
Pope Francis criticized laws that criminalize homosexuality as “unjust,” saying God loves all his children just as they are and called on Catholic bishops who support the laws to welcome LGBTQ people into the church. https://t.co/Nsp1uZUkn1
— Dunja Mijatovic (@Dunja_Mijatovic) January 25, 2023