Pope Francis
Pope Francis waves as he leads the Angelus prayer from the window of the Apostolic Palace in St. Peter's Square at the Vatican, on July 26, 2015. Gay and transgender Catholics want the pope to embrace LGBT issues. Reuters/Max Rossi

On the heels of a historic victory in the United States for same-sex marriage, lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender Catholics say it’s time for the church to make more history. Gay and transgender believers want the church to embrace their cause.

Pope Francis in September will make his first visit to the United States, where a large group of LGBT parishioners will be pushing for a meeting with the pontiff, the New York Times reported. When the pope comes to Philadelphia Sept. 26-27 for the Pontifical Council for the Family, LGBT Catholics are expected to ask the pope to speak out on issues that are dividing the American branch of the church, such as same-sex marriage and transgender rights.

“I want him to extend his hand openly, especially to the transgender community,” Lui Akira Francesco Matsuo, a 28-year-old transgender man from Detroit, told the Times. “I am a practicing Catholic. I just don’t have a parish I can call home.”

The LGBT groups sent a formal letter sent to the Vatican requesting a meeting with the pope while he is in the United States. “We see so many people we love abandoning the church because of the kinds of indignities and pain that they’re subjected to,” said Marianne Duddy-Burke, executive director of DignityUSA, a Catholic LGBT group, who is among those that requested the meeting. "Everybody’s got stories of pain and alienation, and those things do real harm to people. And it needs to end."

Francis has been widely viewed as a progressive church leader on issues ranging from the treatment of the poor, immigrants and prisoners to fighting climate change. He has also made comments on LGBT issues, although he opposed the legalization of same-sex marriage in his homeland of Argentina and has not commented since the U.S. Supreme Court declared it a nationwide right in June.

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Soon after his election as pope, Francis said in July 2013, “If someone is gay and he searches for the Lord and has good will, who am I to judge?” He was responding to a reporter’s question about an alleged “gay lobby” working at the Vatican to push the church to the left on those issues.

In September 2013, the pope said the Catholic church had become too “obsessed” with divisive issues, such as same-sex marriage, contraception and abortion. “The dogmatic and moral teachings of the church are not all equivalent. The church’s pastoral ministry cannot be obsessed with the transmission of a disjointed multitude of doctrines to be imposed insistently,” Francis said in a interview with La Civiltà Cattolica .

Despite those seemingly progressive statements, the pontiff in January warned against the redefinition of traditional marriage. The pontiff implied that same-sex marriage was not traditional institution, but rather something that Western nations were trying to impose around the globe. “Beware of the new ideological colonization that tries to destroy the family,” he said, according to the Times.