Switzerland should pave the way to allow same-sex couples to get married and adopt children, a parliamentary committee has said. But it wanted more discussion over allowing sperm donation for lesbian couples.
The House of Representatives Legal Affairs Committeeexternal link on Thursday voted in favour of a draft law setting out the measures. This has been sent out for consultation, a parliamentary statement said.external link It has also sent out for discussion a version - narrowly voted down in the committee - that would allow access to sperm donation.
At present, sperm donation is only permitted for heterosexual married couples. The committee put forward for discussion whether the Swiss civil code should be changed to allow sperm donation for married lesbian couples.
Opponents argue that this would be unfair to all-male couples, who are currently banned from using a surrogate and donated eggs. They also fear that the issue of sperm donation would potentially overshadow that of allowing gay marriage, putting the change at risk.
The committee’s decision was welcomed by campaigners and the media. Roman Heggli, director of gay rights association Pink Cross, told Swiss public television SRFexternal link it was about time that Switzerland allowed same-sex marriage. He saw the committee’s decision as a “partial success”. The initiative on which it had been based had been handed in five years ago.
He said he would have preferred for the sperm donation issue to have been part of the draft law, but he was pleased that the committee had recognised the importance of the marriage and donation issues.
An editorial published in the Neue Zürcher Zeitungexternal link also hailed the “long overdue” move, saying that allowing same-sex marriage would even strengthen the institution of marriage, which should appeal to the more conservative politicians.
The committee’s statement comes at a time of increasing public support for gay marriage. A poll in October 2016 found that seven out of ten people thought gay couples should be allowed to get married.
In 2005, the Swiss people voted to allow same-sex civil unions, which came into force in 2007. The civil partnership resembles marriage, with gay couples granted the same pension, inheritance and tax rights and obligations. However, adoption of children by gay couples in a civil partnership remains forbidden, as does the facilitated application process for non-Swiss to become citizens and access to fertility treatment.
Same-sex marriage is recognised in many countries across Europe, including neighbouring France, Austriaexternal link and Germany and nations such as Britain, Ireland, Spain and the Scandinavian countries. Swiss neighbour Italy allows civil unions.