A Catholic Cardinal in Mumbai has spoken out to say India should seek to decriminalise homosexuality.
The Indian Parliament will soon debate the issue of repealing Section 377 of the Penal Code, which criminalises homosexuality.
Homosexuality was re-criminalised in Indian in 2013, when Section 377 of the country’s Penal Code was reinstated.
Cardinal Oswald Gracias, the Archbishop of Mumbai, spoke out at India’s National Conference of Catholic Bishops to say being gay should not be illegal.
He told The Hindu: “I had been reflecting on the question of whether the church should be more welcoming towards members of the LGBT community for some time. I met some groups and associations of LGBTs and I had an understanding for them.
“I don’t want them to feel ostracised. That’s why I came out publicly some time back saying I was in favour of decriminalisation of Section 377.”
He went on to say: “personally I feel that it should not be criminalised. For me it’s a question of understanding that it’s an orientation … I know there is still research being done whether it’s a matter of choice or matter of orientation and there are two opinions on this matter. But I believe maybe people have this orientation that God has given them and for this reason they should not be ostracised from society.”
Going on the Cardinal said he thinks there is a lack of understanding within the church on LGBT issues.
“The church has always said people should not be discriminated against and I know the Vatican itself is not for criminalisation of these people. I have to make a distinction of course. Catholic theology makes sexual morality rather clear.”
He said many within the church still think sexuality is a choice, and that he has told colleagues to “tone down their language” against gay people.
The Archbishop is a long-time advocate of LGBT rights, and acceptance from within the church.
In 2013, he warned members of the church to be more inclusive, and to persecute members of the LGBT community less.