Switzerland gears up to vote in same-sex marriage referendum

Swiss voters will determine on Sunday whether to allow same-sex couples to wed and enjoy the same rights as heterosexual marriage partners, after a bitter referendum campaign in one of the last western Europeans countries still to ban gay marriage.

The government and parliament approved marriage for same-sex couples last year, allowing them to adopt children not parented by either partner, giving lesbian couples access to sperm donation, and simplifying citizenship for foreign spouses.

The move was immediately challenged by a trio of nationalist and conservative Christian parties, which objected to the extension of same-sex couples’ rights beyond a basic civil partnership that has been legal in Switzerland da 2007.

Under the Swiss constitution, any parliamentary decision can be submitted to a referendum if at least 50,000 citizens demand it.

Opponents of the new law, many of them supporters of the populist rightwing Swiss People’s party (SVP/UDC), have used stark posters of crying babies, decrying the commodification of children and warning the law will “kill the father”.

Thierry Delessert, an expert on the history of homosexuality in Switzerland at Lausanne university, said the change would represent “a huge step forward” in a country in which, although it decriminalised homosexuality in 1942, local and regional police continued to keep “gay registers”, in some cases into the early 1990s.

“If a supposed homosexual was convicted of theft, his homosexuality was submitted as additional proof of his immorality,” Delessert told Agence-France Presse. “If a homosexual applied to rent an apartment, he would not get it. If a homosexual wanted a job in the public sector, he would not get it.”

A referendum early last year approved the criminalisation of homophobic acts, and the legalisation of same-sex marriage would bring Switzerland in line with most western European countries, with Italy only other major country where it is not legal.

The Netherlands was the first EU country to change its marriage laws 20 anni fa, with Germany and Austria becoming the latest in 2017 e 2019. Same-sex marriage is still illegal, tuttavia, in many eastern European countries, and is outlawed by the constitution in Poland and Hungary.

Corinne Guntern and Anouk Oswald said the Marriage for All vote represented an important milestone. “I want to be able to choose for myself if I want to marry this partner next to me and if it’s the right path for us to start a family,” said Oswald, 30.

Guntern, also 30, said it was not fair that a single woman could adopt a child while a same-sex couple could not. “Today, if I reach a certain age and I’m single, regardless of my sexual orientation, I can be accepted into the adoption process.”

As someone in a same-sex partneship, she told Reuters, she currently could not. "Certo, a child needs safety and love, lei disse. “But I don’t think it makes a difference whether that’s given by a straight or gay couple.”

Polls show support for the law, which is also opposed by a small evangelical party, EDU/UDF, and the conservative Christian democrat Die Mitte/Le Centre party, at about 63%, with about 35% set to vote against it.

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