Awaiting the approval since 2013, Switzerland’s parliament has passed the “Marriage For All” bill to legalize same-sex marriages on Friday, December 18, after two chambers voted. The bill was first introduced by the Green Party, which started a nationwide debate ever since.
The Federal Democratic Union party, a Christian political party, has requested a referendum to let people decide the future of same-sex marriage before it is legalized.
The referendum can be expected sometime next year as Switzerland’s law requires 5,000 signatures to be collected in 100 days to trigger a referendum.
The LGBT+ community has still hailed the bill’s approval as their victory as they speculate positive response of the public.
Where other European countries had already granted same-sex couples to get married, Switzerland has lagged.
Current Legislation of Switzerland:
Since 2005, the legislation of Switzerland allows same-sex couples to enter a registered civil partnership.
Though it recognized the same-sex couples, the legalization was only to the point where the couples could enter into a partnership that gets them registered and documented.
The legislation still did not provide them the same rights as heterosexual couples would enjoy after getting married.
Similarly, trans and intersex people require to appear before a doctor and a court to get their approval for getting their gender registered. The minimum age for legal changes to gender without parental consent was set at 16.
The procedure costs up to CHF1,000 (€924, $1,130).
The New Bill:
According to the newly approved bill, same-sex couples would now be allowed the same access to marriage as any other couple regardless of their gender.
Getting married under the new bill would also grant same-sex couples the rights only heterosexuals enjoyed till now. The rights would include joint adoption of children and the right to obtain citizenship.
The bill would also allow lesbians to access sperm donation in a landmark change.
Similarly, the bill also included lawmakers voting to simplify legal name and gender marker changes on identity documents.
Regarding the bill, the LGBT+ would have to self-declare their gender at civil registry offices to register their gender. They will not require the approval of any doctor or court and can get registered the way they recognize their gender to be.
It is called “self-ID.” by the advocacy group Transgender Europe.
Reaction to the Bill:
The bill has already started facing some hurdles as a reaction of the Federal Democratic Union party, which has requested a referendum before the bill’s legalization.
Besides, the requirement of 5,000 signatures in 100 days for a referendum might also be another problem for providing rights to LGBT+.
In response to this, the LGBT+ community and organizations are still optimistic and consider it their victory.
“This is not only a milestone in the fight for rights of the Swiss LGBT population but also a victory for their dignity, acceptance, and inclusion in society,” Marriage For All, a campaign group, said on its website.
“On one hand, we’re super happy there will be this legal gender recognition based on self-determination, in a rapid and simple procedure,” said Alecs Recher, the head of legal services at Transgender Network Switzerland, an advocacy group.
However, Recher told Reuters news agency that the age limit was “a step back for those under 16.”
The Expected Future:
The Rainbow Families Association, an LGBT+ Rights Organisation in Switzerland, expressed satisfaction as they speculated broad public support for same-sex marriage and said they are “ready” for a referendum.
The Local reported that Matthias Erhardt, deputy president of the Rainbow Families Association, said, “If the opponents launch a referendum, we’re ready.”
Erhard further added that “We have 82 percent of the population behind us and, thanks to the mobilization of the LGBT community, our partner organizations and the political parties who support us, we will be able to increase acceptance of LGBT people in society further,”.
A survey commissioned by a gay advocacy group Pink Cross in February, showed more than 80% of Swiss support same-sex marriage. Released in November, the study further revealed that 72 percent supported same-sex adoption, whereas 70 percent of those surveyed agreed that same-sex couples should have access to sperm donation, suggesting the law would likely take effect.
Foreseeing the bill’s potential acceptance after the referendum, concerns about the amendment are also under discussion.
Lawmakers have raised their concerns about the amendment in the constitution of Switzerland to allow same-sex marriages.
“The right to marry and to have a family is guaranteed” is the exact wording in Switzerland’s constitution, in light of which the council of states, which is the upper house of parliament, decided earlier this month that there was no need to change the constitution as the wording around marriage was already inclusive.