LAS VEGAS (KTNV) — Pope Francis became the first pontiff to endorse same-sex civil unions.
"Homosexual people have the right to be in a family. They are children of God," Francis said. "You can't kick someone out of a family, nor make their life miserable for this. What we have to have is a civil union law; that way, they are legally covered."
The papal thumbs-up came midway through a feature-length documentary "Francesco," which premiered at a Rome Film Festival.
The film, which features fresh interviews with the pope, delves into issues Francis cares about most, including the environment, poverty, migration, racial and income inequality, and the people most affected by discrimination.
However, Pope Francis' declaration does not change the Catholic Church's beliefs about marriage.
Bishop George Leo Thomas, of the Diocese of Las Vegas, says this comes after known hardships when some have not been allowed to visit their partner at an emergency room or access employer-sponsored health insurance or social security survivor benefits.
"In the western part of the United States, this is not anything to us, but in other parts of the world, this is dramatically different, and to have a Holy Father saying to please be sensitive to people who face these hardships and struggles is a big deal," Thomas said.
He also says that while some people would like more changes in favor of the LGBTQ+ community within the church, this declaration could help their acceptance.
"For those who have rejected their child, this may be a strong appeal to them to love your children, be present again. In God's image," Thomas said.
But not everyone was happy with the pope's declaration.
State President of Nevada Families for Freedom Janine Hansen says Francis' endorsement of same-sex civil unions is just a step away from accepting same-sex marriages.
"The pope's approval of same-sex unions undermines the Biblical principles of the sacredness of marriage between a man and women. Unfortunately, we must ask what is next?" Hansen said.
The LGBTQ+ community says Pope Francis' declaration is a step in the right direction.
"It's nice to finally have a figure endorse this and say we're all people of God. With him coming out, it opens up the doors to all other religions to say what really is the issue?" said Chris Davin, executive director of the Henderson Equality Center.