Vatican: Pope Francis calls for civil union laws for same-sex couples

Pontiff signals support for same-sex civil unions in comments likely to spark controversy.

Pope Francis called for legislation for civil union laws for same-sex couples, saying that gay couples deserve legal recognition for their relationships, in a significant shift from the Vatican's traditional stance on the issue.

“Homosexual people have a right to be in a family. They are children of God and have a right to a family. Nobody should be thrown out or be made miserable over it," said the pontiff in the documentary Francesco by director Evgeny Afineevsky, premiered at the Rome Film Fest today, 21 October.

“What we have to create is a civil union law. That way they are legally covered,” said the pope. “I stood up for that.”

This comment by Pope Francis is interpreted as a reference to when he was archbishop of Buenos Aires and opposed efforts to legalise same-sex marriages but allegedly supported a form of legal protection for the rights of gay couples, as a way of blocking the "wholesale adoption of same-sex marriage in Argentina," writes the Catholic News Agency (CNA).

The film includes a story about Pope Francis encouraging two Italian men in a same-sex relationship to introduce their three adopted children to their parish church "but to be ready for opposition," reports Reuters.

The pope’s comments in Afineevsky's film are considered by observers as some of his clearest remarks yet on gay relationships.

Afineevsky is set to receive the prestigious Kineo Movie for Humanity Award, which recognises filmmakers who address social and humanitarian issues, at a ceremony in the Vatican Gardens on 22 October, reports CNA.

The filmmaker was given unprecedented access to Pope Francis for his documentary which will have its North American premiere on 25 October.