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Equality still testy for church

There were plenty of people championing Pope Francis’ recent visit to the United States. He spoke passionately about the need to address climate change, chastised Congress for failing to show enough compassion for refugees and immigrants, and spoke of a desire to abolish the death penalty.

As quick as people were to get excited about this Argentinian pope’s progressive viewpoints on such topics, they were immediately dismayed to learn who the same Pope Francis met with on his final day in Washington.

Kim Davis is a county clerk from Kentucky who went to jail for five days for disobeying a court’s order to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples. Davis has since become a hero for conservatives in the U.S.

Although she’s not Catholic, a meeting was arranged between the two. Her lawyer told media last week the pope told her to “stay strong.” In a television interview about her meeting with Pope Francis, Davis said the sitting pontiff told her, “Thank you for your courage.”

A number of people were expressing skepticism about the initial report, but sure enough, a Vatican spokesperson confirmed the meeting took place.

Those who expressed doubts about the existence of such a meeting perhaps failed to remember they’re still talking about the leader of the Catholic church. Same-sex marriage remains a morally dubious practice in the eyes of the Vatican, and Pope Francis was already on the record as an opponent of such unions.

That’s too bad when one also considers the latest pope has shown a more tolerant side towards the lesbian, gay, bisexual, queer and transgendered community than any of his predecessors. In 2013, Pope Francis said he would not judge gay priests over their sexual orientation.

“If someone is gay and he searches for the Lord and has good will, who am I to judge?”

While some have cited comments like this as a sign of progress, the church continues to distance itself from positions that recognize the LGBTQ community’s right to equality in a modern society that’s by-and-large coming around to that ideal. The church’s continued reluctance to ordain women is another position that fails to honour the notion of equality.

The 1969 Stonewall riot in New York that helped launch the gay rights movement recently came into the spotlight through the release of the film “Stonewall.” Forty-six years later, the situation for same-sex couples is much improved. But there remains work to be done.

Leaders who hold sway over others play an important role in fostering acceptance and understanding on issues like same-sex marriage. Pope Francis is taking some steps in the right direction with his leadership, but it still might be a few decades before we see any big changes to the Catholic church’s outlook on same-sex unions.

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