Pope Francis supported civil unions for gay couples as recently as 2010.
This news might surprise lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) advocates aware of the new pope's public stance on gay marriage -- mainly, that it is a “destructive attack on God’s plan.” Francis also is fervently opposed to gay adoption, which he has said discriminates against children.
However in 2010, the man who now serves as pontiff was evidently more flexible on the issue of same-sex marriage. As Argentina's legislature debated President Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner's bill to allow gay marriage, Francis -- then known as Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio -- suggested to his bishops that the Church support civil unions as a compromise of sorts. At the time, civil unions were already legal in parts of Argentina ABC noted.
Civil unions were the “lesser of two evils,” said Sergio Rubin, authorized biographer for then-Cardinal Bergoglio, according to The New York Times. “He [Bergoglio] wagered on a position of greater dialogue with society.”
“We don’t have a fanatic vision,” Federico Wals, spokesman for the former cardinal, told Spanish-language Infonews in 2010, according to ABC News. “What we are asking is that the laws are respected. We believe that we must propose more comprehensive civil union rights than currently exist, but no gay marriage.”
The Argentinian bishops rejected their leader's suggestion, however. In July 2010, Argentina passed the gay marriage law, making it the first country in South America to officially support same-sex marriage equality.
Still, others who knew the pope during those dramatic times are less prone to optimism.
“The reality, beyond what he may have said in private meetings, was that he said some terrible things in public,” Esteban Paulón, president of the Argentine Federation of Lesbians, Gays, Bisexuals and Transsexuals, told the Times. “He took a role, in public, that was determinedly combative.”
GLAAD President Herndon Graddick seemed similarly dispirited in a statement sent to The Huffington Post, which read, in part, "For decades the Catholic hierarchy has been in need of desperate reform. In his life, Jesus condemned gays zero times. In Pope Benedict's short time in the papacy, he made a priority of condemning gay people routinely."