Switzerland to vote on same-sex marriage
Geneva, Switzerland: The Swiss government announced Tuesday that a referendum on same-sex marriage would be held.
Switzerland is one of the few remaining European countries where same-sex marriage is illegal. In December, the Swiss parliament passed a bill enabling same-sex couples to marry.
Under Switzerland's direct democracy scheme, however, new legislation can be questioned and put to a referendum if more than 50,000 valid signatures are gathered within 100 days.
The government said in a statement that opponents collected more than 60,000 valid signatures in the prosperous nation of 8.6 million citizens.
The Swiss usually vote three to four times a year on a wide variety of issues at the national, regional, and local levels – either on laws challenged by petition or on legislation with enough signatures.
The debate dubbed the "referendum against marriage for all,'" has yet to be scheduled.
Opponents of the rule, like representatives of the country's largest party, the Swiss People's Party (SVP), and the marginal, equally right-wing populist Federal Democratic Union, have said they would try to force a referendum.
According to the SVP, it is "intolerable to want to put marriage on an equal footing with any kind of cohabitation."
In Switzerland, same-sex couples will form a civil union.
However, this status does not confer the same benefits as marriage, including the ability to gain citizenship and jointly adopt children.
After several rounds of debate dating back to 2013, the bill was passed by both chambers of parliament in December.
The bill's draft encourages gays and lesbians to marry and lesbians to receive sperm donations.
On April 12th, the conservative party submitted their signatures opposing the law reform, after which the Federal Chancellery reviewed the signatures and announced that a referendum will take place.
Switzerland same-sex marriage: a late affair
Same-sex couples can marry in many European countries, but they are still discriminated against in Switzerland as in "registered partnership."
This institution, which gained popularity in 2004, does not have the same rights and responsibilities as marriage. There are differences, such as in naturalization, but mutual adoption of children is also prohibited.
Due to popular support for same-sex marriage around the world, the initiative is expected to pass this time.
Though official polling is scarce, a December 2020 poll commissioned by LGBTI advocates found that 82 percent of Swiss voters supported the proposal, the Swiss Local reports.
In February 2020, 63 percent of Swiss voters approved a law prohibiting sexual orientation discrimination.
If a law passed, Switzerland will become the world's 29th country to legalize same-sex marriage. Only civil unions are permitted in Switzerland, as a result of law reform in 2004.
However, in addition to the symbolic importance of marriage, supporters of the move point out that registered partnerships in Switzerland do not have the same rights as marriages.