The government has launched a public debate about the legal status of marriages and other forms of partnerships, including a civil solidarity pact similar to a model in neighbouring France.
“Marriage is without any doubt still a pillar of our society. But it is obvious that today’s legal provisions no longer mirror reality in all its forms,” Justice Minister Simonetta Sommaruga said at a news conference on Wednesday.
A cabinet white paper suggests examining the idea of adding the solidarity pact, commonly known as PACS, as a form of civil union between two adults. This option would exist alongside those of a formal marriage and informal partnership, according to Sommaruga.
The legal status can have an impact on adoption rights, artificial procreation, access to a patient in hospital as well as social security payments and taxes.
The report dismisses proposals to legislate on non-registered partnerships, but it highlights cases of financial hardship where women are excluded from any form of compensation after the death of their partner or a separation.
The study, which is part of a broad review of family law, inheritance and custody rights, includes the option of extending the full legal status of marriages to homosexual couples and registered partnerships to heterosexuals.
Discussions are currently pending in parliament over the potential extension of full marriage rights to same-sex couples, notably with regard to adoptions.
In 2005, voters approved a parliamentary decision to grant same-sex couples the right to formally register their partnerships.
Currently, one in three couples without children in Switzerland are not married and one in five children are born out of wedlock, according to Sommaruga.
She stressed that the freedom to choose an individual lifestyle is an achievement of the past few decades in Switzerland.
“We have to ensure this achievement and this freedom,” she said. “But the laws must not dictate how citizens live their lives.”