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equal rights Highest Swiss court says sexual orientation not protected under equality law

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The case involves a unit commander in the Swiss Armed Forces who claimed that he was not offered employment because of his sexual orientation.

(© Keystone / Laurent Gillieron)

In a case involving a former unit commander in the Swiss Armed Forces, the Federal Court ruled that the law on equality does not apply to discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation.  

On Tuesday, Switzerland's highest court rejected the appealexternal link of a homosexual man who claimed that the defense unit of the Swiss army did not extend his fixed employment contract because of his sexual orientation. In 2015, the plaintiff, who was a unit commander, applied for an extension before his contract ended but was not rehired. 

The man claimed that he was not offered employment because of his sexual orientation. The defense unit denied discrimination, claiming that the position for which he applied no longer existed. 

After an unsuccessful appeal at the Federal Administrative Court, the plaintiff took the case to Switzerland’s highest court.  

The court dismissed the case on Tuesday asserting that a homosexual, who claims to have been discriminated against on the basis of sexual orientation, cannot invoke the Federal Equality Act. It argued that the law only covers cases of direct discrimination because of a person’s gender.  

In the ruling, the court wrote, “Both men and women can be homosexual. Discrimination on the grounds of homosexuality is not based on belonging to a particular gender.” 

Greater protections for homosexuals 

Late last year, the Swiss parliament made homophobia a criminal offence by extending the scope of the Criminal Code to include sexual orientation. The Code currently bans hate speech or discrimination against a person or group of persons on the basis of their racial, ethnic or religious affiliation. 

Following a signature-gathering campaign by opponents of this modification, Swiss voters are set to have the final say on the issue in a referendum. 


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