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Voters weigh gay marriage, national park and Sunday shopping

A political party wanted marriage is defined as a "lasting and legally regulated cohabitation between a man and a woman" Keystone

On Sunday, Zurich voters overwhelmingly rejected a move to define marriage in the constitution as between a man and a woman only. The initiative was considered a reaction against liberal attitudes towards gay marriage. More than 80% of voters turned it down.

This content was published on November 27, 2016 - 14:43

The initiative was proposed by an ultra-conservative Christian party, the Federal Democratic Union, which wanted the following phrase to be anchored in the Zurich cantonal constitution: “Marriage is defined as a lasting and legally regulated cohabitation between a man and a woman”.

The initiative was opposed by both the cantonal parliament and government. The cantonal government argued that on a legal level, the regulation of matrimonial law was actually a federal issue, not a cantonal one. Turnout for the vote was 45.2%.

Meanwhile, plans for a second national park in a mountainous corner of Switzerland have been voted down by the communities affected. Only eight of 17 municipalities backed the local citizens’ initiative for the Adula park.

Locals feared national park regulations would impose too many restrictions on their lives such as preventing new buildings, even that of a barn.

The president of the pro-Adula association, Fabrizio Keller, had argued that the new park wouldn’t be placed in the same “hands off” nature reserve category as Switzerland’s only existing park, and only the core zone would have been given absolute protection.

Back in 2000, the environmental organisation Pro Natura launched a competition to award CHF1 million ($1 million) to the founders of a second national park. A few representatives from the local communes in Graubünden and Ticino got together to discuss whether this could be the answer to the region’s problems. It took 15 years to agree on the future park’s charter. When it was finally presented at a town hall meeting, it was met with more than 700 claims, petitions and motions for change.

Following Sunday’s result, communes that were in favour of the park have the option of drafting a new proposal to be put before the people once again.

Also on Sunday, canton Obwalden became the second canton after Schwyz to end inheritance tax. A majority of 71.1% backed the government-led initiative aimed at attracting wealthy residents. As a result of the decision, the canton will lose about CHF600,000 ($591,000) a year in tax revenue.

At present, the federal authorities do not impose central inheritance or gift taxes if people choose to hand their assets on to others. All cantons, besides Schwyz, charge varying amounts for passing wealth to the next generation. Most cantons also apply a charge for financial gifts – with varying limits – while the owner of the assets is still alive.

And in Geneva, laws governing Sunday shopping were relaxed slightly. Shops in the canton will open four Sundays a year after an initiative was approved by voters. Near final results showed that 57.36% of voters accepted a counterproposal to a union initiative “Stay away from my Sundays!” that had wanted to ban Sunday trading on bank holidays.

Acceptance of the counterproposal means that shops will be able to open on December 31, a bank holiday in the canton, and three other Sundays a year. Turnout was 42.5%. 

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