Photo by archer10

This morning Pope Benedict XVI announced his resignation – the first time a pope will step down in more than six centuries – to shocked citizens around the world. While his Holiness had hinted he might leave his post when he no longer felt physically, mentally, or spiritually capable of carrying on with his duties, the news still came as a surprise to Catholics and world leaders alike. 

While it may not immediately seem apparent why San Francisco – a city whose values don't always align with the teachings of the Roman Catholic Church – should care about the resignation of a spiritual leader half the world away, the upcoming papal election can drastically impact California politics, especially the fight for marriage equality. 

His Holiness cited his age and general exhaustion as the reasons he decided to step down from the top spot, however, the resignation of a very conservative pope could be a sign that the Catholic Church may be rethinking their strict policies on gay and women's rights. My first thought upon hearing the news was that this could be the first step in the right direction for the Church. Like the Republican party in the last election, the Catholic Church has alienated many potential members by refusing to recognize gay relationships or a woman's right to choose. 

Many San Franciscans may write off the authority of the Catholic Church as an outdated tradition that preaches archaic ideas, but the fact remains that it is still one of the most influential institutions in the world and California has the most Roman Catholics in the U.S. In a famously liberal state that is constantly being shown up by our Northwestern friends when it comes to civil rights issues, the approval of the Catholic Church might be what some voters need to finally pass laws for equality. I'm not saying that the Catholic Church will do a complete 180 when Benedict leaves his post on February 28, but after all, this is the first time since the Middle Ages that a Pope has resigned – if that's not an opportunity for change, I don't know what other sign they're waiting for. 

I'm not the only one who's excited for what this resignation could mean for previously unsupported communities. LGBT leaders around the world have also reacted to the sudden change with hope that the next papacy will be sure to support gay rights, pro-choice, and contraceptives.

"I’m optimistic, I think that the new Pope could only be a better one. The Vatican has understood that they have made a lot of mistakes, on human rights, on LGBT rights, on condoms, on new families and on modern needs of contemporary people," Italian LGBT leader Giuseppina la Delfa told Gay Star News

The Church might be a little late, but should the next Pope (and there is no clear front runner at this point) confirm the moral sanctity of gay marriage or abortion, San Francisco wouldn't be the only US city that could potentially undergo major changes.