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Pope Francis reached out to the gay community in a press conference on Monday that marked the end of his trip to Brazil.

“If someone is gay and he searches for the Lord and has good will, who am I to judge?” Francis asked. “We shouldn’t marginalize people for this. They must be integrated into society.”

While this did not officially shift Church policy, it represented a marked difference in tone from Pope Benedict, who proclaimed in 2005 that men with “homosexual tendencies” could be barred from serving as priests.

Francis’ comments also stand in stark contrast to Virginia’s attorney general and Republican nominee for governor Ken Cuccinelli, who does think it’s his place to judge.

In a debate earlier this month, Cuccinelli said, “My personal beliefs about the personal challenges of homosexuality haven’t changed.”

The term “personal challenges of homosexuality” is a little judge-y.

But what are his beliefs that haven’t changed?

”When you look at the homosexual agenda, I cannot support something that I believe brings nothing but self-destruction, not only physically but of their soul,” Cuccinelli said in 2008.

The Republican is also pursuing enforcement of a law banning sodomy, though the Supreme Court declared such injunctions unconstitutional years ago.

So we have a Pope who wants to be inclusive and nonjudgemental of gay people and a GOP nominee who condemns gay people and wants to make their private sex acts — and private sex acts enjoyed by nearly all Virginians — illegal.

The Vatican is obviously a little bit better at rebranding than the GOP.

Photo: Gage Skidmore via Flickr

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