Pope Francis allowing the blessings of same-sex couples is unlikely to impact future rulings made by Catholic justices of the U.S. Supreme Court regarding LGBTQ+ rights, Northeastern experts say. The declaration by the Vatican this week allows priests to bless couples “in irregular situations,” but the blessings should not resemble a religious marriage ceremony and do not officially validate a couple’s status.
The pope’s decision can be viewed as a positive first step, according to Libby Adler, professor of law and women’s, gender and sexuality studies at Northeastern University. Before many U.S. states legalized same-sex marriage, she says, they allowed civil unions. “It was not genuine equality,” Adler says. “But it wound up being a step along the path to same-sex marriage—sort of a strategy of gradual normalization.”