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Will Catholic justices on the U.S. Supreme Court be influenced by the pope’s softer stance on same-sex couples?

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FILE - Same-sex couples take part in a public blessing ceremony in front of the Cologne Cathedral in Cologne, Germany, on Sept. 20, 2023. Pope Francis has formally approved allowing priests to bless same-sex couples, with a new document released Monday Dec. 18, 2023 explaining a radical change in Vatican policy by insisting that people seeking God’s love and mercy shouldn’t be subject to “an exhaustive moral analysis” to receive it. (AP Photo/Martin Meissner, File)

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.”

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