Same sex couples have had their chances of achieving legal recognition boosted, after the government said they should enjoy similar rights to heterosexuals. The proposal goes only part of the way towards meeting the demands of homosexuals.
At its weekly meeting on Wednesday, the cabinet mandated the justice ministry to prepare a draft law under which same sex partnerships would receive official recognition and legal protection.
The new law will lay down the conditions for registering and the benefits associated with the new status.
The government said that, unlike in northern European countries, the new form of partnership would not grant the same rights as for married couples. It said the law would create legislation specific to same sex couples.
It will therefore continue to prevent same sex couples from adopting children, and deny lesbians access to artificial procreation.
Since the measures will be tailored to homosexuals, the new partnership will not be available to heterosexual couples seeking an alternative to marriage.
The measures go only some of the way towards meeting the demands of homosexual organisations, which have been pressing for same sex couples to be allowed to marry.
Gay and lesbian groups welcomed the government's recognition that action was necessary, but said they were was unhappy at the measures proposed.
"It's not an ideal solution because it's a special right, not an equal right," said Moel Velkem of the gay rights group, Pink Cross. "We prefer the Scandinavian solutions which are very close to marriage."
Nevertheless, gay and lesbian groups said they were glad the authorities had reacted after years of lobbying, and that the partnership would probably bring some benefits.
"There is a lot of discrimination," explained Cordelia Oppliger of the Swiss Lesbians Organisation, "and I think we could avoid it all if we were legally recognised."
But she said it was particularly difficult to understand the decision to exclude same sex couples from adoption.
Oppliger said her own partner had a child and that although she was helping to raise it, without adoption, she would have no rights over the child if its mother died.
The draft law is expected to be brought before parliament next year.
swissinfo with agencies