Parliament has launched discussions a proposal to allow same-sex marriage bringing Switzerland in line with many other western European countries.
The House of Representatives on Wednesday agreed in principle to full marriage equality for homosexual couples against opposition by conservative parliamentarians.
Supporters of the proposal argued it was time for Switzerland as a liberal country to give gay marriage full legal status.
However, opponents, notably from the right-wing Swiss People’s Party, argued civil partnerships for gays and lesbians, introduced in 2007, was enough.
The debate, including the right for lesbian couples to sperm donations, is set to continue over the next few days.
Observers expect the bill to pass in the House, but approval by the Senate at a later stage is less certain.
Right-wing opponents have threatened to challenge a more liberal legislation to a nationwide vote.
A survey by gay rights groups showed more than 80% of respondents supporting same-sex marriage.
Martial status in Switzerland has more than symbolic value as it has a bearing on adoption and assisted reproduction rights.
Earlier this year, Swiss voters endorsed an anti-homophobia law, giving lesbians, gays and bisexuals improved legal protection from discrimination.
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