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Swiss government backs same-sex marriage ahead of vote

Rainbow mask
A rainbow mask hangs in the Swiss parliament during last year's winter session, when politicians backed "marriage for all" Keystone / Peter Klaunzer

Homosexual couples should have the same rights as heterosexual couples, said Justice Minister Karin Keller-Sutter on Tuesday, presenting the government’s arguments for a Yes on the “marriage for all” referendum on September 26.

“The state should not dictate to people how they should organise their private and family lives,” Keller-Sutter’s justice ministry said in a statementExternal link.

The “marriage for all” project was accepted by a large majority in parliament last December, after years of debate and modifications – the original idea was put forward as a parliamentary initiative by the Liberal Greens in 2013.

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As well as allowing for same-sex marriage, the law will let lesbian couples have a child through sperm donation, while facilitated citizenship procedures – currently unavailable for same-sex partnerships – and adoption rights will also be widened.

Switzerland is one of the few European countries where same-sex marriages are illegal. Same-sex couples have been able to enter into a “registered partnership” but this does not entail the same rights and obligations as full marriage, especially when it comes to citizenship and joint adoption of children.

“For the government there is no reason to exclude same-sex couples from marriage,” the government argued on Tuesday. “Nothing changes for marriage between a woman and a man.”

If the vote passes, no new partnerships can be registered. However, those that exist today can be converted into a marriage.

Referendum

Although a survey commissioned by gay advocacy group Pink Cross in 2020 showed more than 80% of Swiss support same-sex marriage, opponents gathered enough signatures to force a binding referendum on the issue.

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The committee – made up mainly of members of a small, ultra-conservative Christian party and the large right-wing Swiss People’s Party – argue that same-sex marriage warrants not merely a new law but a constitutional change.

They also say allowing lesbian couples access to sperm donation procedures is “legally and morally questionable” and that the well-being of children needs to be considered.

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