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LGBTQI, Catholic members react after Pope calls for civil unions for same-sex couples

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FORT WAYNE, Ind. (Fort Wayne's NBC) - Local members of the LGBTQI and Catholic communities react after Pope Francis called for the passage of civil union laws for same-sex couples in a documentary that aired in Rome on Wednesday.

The documentary, "Francesco," covered issues that Pope Francis cares about including the environment, migration, poverty, racial inequality, etc.

“Homosexuals have a right to be part of the family,” the pontiff said in “Francesco,” a documentary about his life. “They’re children of God and have a right to a family. Nobody should be thrown out, or be made miserable because of it.”

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

Fort Wayne's NBC News talked with leaders with Dignity USA, an organization that advocates for LGBTQI Catholics. Leaders said the announcement was positive news, however, they have questions.

"What kind of protections is he calling for?" Meli Barber, vice president of Dignity USA asked. "Is he really calling for the full legal protections that we enjoy as married people? Or this is a halfway point where he is not going far as marriage equality, but just some basic protections?"

Fort Wayne's NBC News also talked with Bently Burkhalter who is a gay Catholic. He said growing up in the church wasn't always easy.

"I stopped going to church because if there was something intrinsically wrong with me as a person, why go to mass? Why participate?" Burkhalter asked.

Burkhalter said the Pope's latest comments gives him hope that he and others like him can find a home again in the Catholic church.

"With this, I'm just affirmed that the steps that I'm taking are the correct steps and I don't have to feel ostracized," Burkhalter said.

Louie Tran

Louie Tran is the weekend anchor for Fort Wayne’s NBC at 6 and 11pm and a weekday general assignment reporter. To share story ideas, please email him at

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