GENEVA – Swiss voters will decide on Sunday whether to allow same-sex marriages in the wealthy Alpine country, one of the few in Western Europe where gay and lesbian couples are not already allowed to marry.
Switzerland has allowed same-sex civil partnerships since 2007. The Swiss government, which approved the âMarriage for Allâ referendum, said adoption would put same-sex partners on an equal footing with heterosexual couples by allowing them to adopt children together and sponsor a spouse for citizenship.
Opponents argued that replacing civil partnerships with full matrimonial rights would somehow undermine families founded on a union between a man and a woman.
Polls suggest the referendum, which would also allow lesbian couples to use regulated sperm donation, should be passed. The most recent polls suggest he has around 60% support, but the margin has narrowed as the vote draws closer.
The campaign was riddled with allegations of unfair tactics, with opposing parties denouncing the tear-up of posters, LGBT hotlines inundated with complaints, hostile emails and cries of insults against activists, and ‘efforts to silence opposing views.
Switzerland, which has 8.5 million inhabitants and enjoys international prestige due to Geneva’s role as the seat of the United Nations in Europe, is traditionally conservative and has only extended the right to vote to all its women than in 1990.
Depending on the geopolitical definition used to describe Western Europe, the country is the only one, one of two, or part of a handful of nations in the region that do not recognize same-sex marriages. Greece, Italy, and the micro-states of Andorra, Monaco, and San Marino are also among the places that only allow local couples to marry if they are male and female.
Most countries in Central and Eastern Europe do not allow marriages involving two men or two women.
Even if the Swiss referendum passes, supporters say it would be months before same-sex couples could marry, mainly due to administrative and legislative procedures.
Unlike many other European countries, where elected lawmakers have legalized same-sex marriages, Swiss voters are deciding because opponents called a public referendum on the issue after the national parliament approved legislation to give same-sex couples every opportunity. marriage rights. A similar referendum in Ireland in 2015 was passed by an overwhelming majority.
Switzerland’s referendum process gives voters a direct voice in policymaking, and most votes are cast by mail ballot.
The Swiss government claims that around 700 same-sex couples unite civilly each year, but that they do not enjoy equal rights. By authorizing marriage, it would allow same-sex couples to adopt children who are not those of either spouse; lesbian couples could have access to donated sperm; and spouses born abroad to Swiss nationals in same-sex relationships would obtain faster access to Swiss nationality.
“It’s a fight that goes back 20 years,” said Matthias Erhardt, a member of the Geneva city council that supports the legalization of same-sex marriages in Switzerland. âI think it would be a step towards modernity.
âFor us LGBs – lesbians, gays and bisexuals – it’s our whole life, our life project, that’s at stake,â Erhardt said. Some transgender people identify as heterosexual, while others consider themselves to be gay, lesbian or bisexual.
Opponents say marriages should only be legally recognized when they are between a man and a woman, arguing that extending the institution to same-sex partners would enshrine the absence of fathers in law.
“If the law is adopted, we will introduce into Swiss civil law a new institution: that of the child without a father,” said Yves Nidegger, a national legislator of the right-wing and populist Swiss People’s Party.
âTwo women or two men who want to conceive, even though they love each other very, very, very strongly, that’s just not how children are created,â Nidegger said.
LGBT rights group ILGA-Europe places Switzerland 22nd – after Slovenia and Bosnia – in its 2021 ranking of 49 European countries on their legal and political practices. The ranking takes into account a variety of factors, including anti-LGBT discrimination, hate crime and speech, and legal recognition of transgender people.
Another subject of Sunday’s poll is a measure led by left-wing groups to increase taxes on investment and capital income such as dividends or income from rental properties in Switzerland to ensure better redistribution and taxation. more equitable.
Polls suggest the referendum is unlikely to pass in a country known for its vibrant financial sector and relatively low taxes, and as a haven for many of the world’s wealthiest people.