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Same sex marriages, civil unions, etc.
Registered partnerships and
same-sex marriage in Switzerland
1994: Using the slogan "same rights for same-sex couples," various
Switch gay-positive organizations collected about 85,000 signatures on a
petition asking for the equality of same-sex and opposite-sex partnerships. 1
1996-JUN-13: By a vote of 68 to 61 with one abstention, the
Nationalrat (Swiss parliament) asked the government to explore ways to allow
for legal recognition of same-sex partnerships. 1
1996-JUN-21: The Legal
Commission of the National Council supported registered partnership for
same-sex couples by a vote of 18 to 3. They rejected the concept of marriage
equality by a vote of 14 to 5. 1
1999-SEP-27: By a vote of 105 to 46,
the Federal Assembly voted in favor of a resolution supporting same-sex
partnership registration, and directed its Legal Affairs Committee to draft
a bill to eliminate some of the discrimination faced by same-sex couples. A
spokesperson for Pink Cross, the Swiss national gay organization, estimated
that it will take another four to five years for a registered partnership
law to be adopted. 1
2001-MAY: The Pacte Civile de Solidarité (Civil Solidarity
Pact or PaCS) law came into effect in the canton (state) of Geneva.
A same-sex or opposite-sex couple could make a declaration of partnership at
the Justice Ministry or with a notary. They obtained all of the rights of
married couples except for taxation and social security benefits, the right
to be eligible to adopt, and access to fertility treatments. 2
2002-SEP-22: Voters in the canton of Zurich voted 63%
to 37% to give same-sex couples some of the same legal rights previously
restricted to married
opposite-sex couples. This includes tax,
inheritance, and social security benefits. These rights are only given
to same-sex couples who live in Zurich canton and who register with the
government, promising to live together and support each other for six
months. The Swiss Lesbian Organization, Pink Cross (the
Swiss Organization of Gays), and the Friends and Parents of Lesbians
and Gays (FELS) issued a joint statement stating that:
lesbians and gays of the canton of Zurich, this historic 'yes' signifies
that the state no longer considers them second-class citizens." 3,4
2002-NOV-28: The Swiss governing cabinet proposed a law
recognizing same-sex couples "like married couples." Justice Minister Ruth
Metzler said the it was "... a day of tolerance and a step toward a
modern and open Switzerland." 5 With the exception of two small religious parties and the right-wing
SVP party, all of the Swiss political parties supported the bill. The
Roman Catholic Church opposed the proposal. The Federation of
Protestant Churches supported it. The bill passed 6
2003: The Canton of Zurich'ssame-sex registered partnership
law came into effect.
2004-JUN: The Swiss Parliament approved a partnership bill.
However, the Federal Democratic Union -- a small conservative religious
party -- were able to mount a campaign that collected sufficient signatures
on a petition to force a nationwide referendum.
2004-JUL: The PcCS was expanded to the Canton of Neuchâtel. By
2005-FEB, 35 opposite-sex and 21 same-sex couples had registered. 5
2005-MAY-19: According to SwissInfo, a news and information platform produced by the Swiss Broadcasting Corporation, those opposed to registered
partnerships argued that there is no need for such legislation:
"Our constitution only gives protection to the family and marriage
between two heterosexual people. All other lifestyles, including a
homosexual way of life, is guaranteed through personal responsibility
and must not be regulated by the state," Federal Democratic Union
parliamentarian Christian Waber told swissinfo. But Waber also maintains
that the legislation is a "cultural break" with Christian values and
threatens the institution of marriage. For him, marriage is the basis of
the state because it assures the next generation. 'The only difference
between marriage and same-sex partnerships is adoption and fertility
treatment... But in a few years even this could be changed because it
will be [considered] discrimination against [homosexuals'] way of life,'
he said. The committee has so far garnered only outright support from
one major political party, Blocher’s rightwing Swiss People’s Party."
Christian Verdon, spokesperson for the "yes" campaign said:
"Now gay couples are discriminated against because they cannot secure
their relationship in regard to inheritance or visiting rights in
hospitals. .. 'This law will bring new rights, but also new duties to
the couple such as the obligation to support the partner when he or she
needs money or to take care of them'."
2005-MAY-25: A survey revealed that 67% of the
public support the law. 7
2005-JUN-05: Swiss voters approved a referendum on the proposed Eingetragene Partnerschaft (registered partnership) law introduced by the
Swiss government. Fifty-six percent of the
registered voters took part. 8 Fifty-eight percent of
supported extending some rights that had been restricted to opposite-sex
married couples to registered same-sex couples. The drop from 67% in the
polls to 58% in the referendum was expected, because those strongly opposed
to the law would have been more motivated to turn out and vote than the
average Swiss voter.
Registered same-sex couples are recognized as having a "life
partnership with mutual rights and obligations." They obtain most of the
rights and privileges of opposite-sex married couples in terms of next of
kin status, taxation, insurance, health care, inheritance, social security,
pensions, and shared possession of a home or
apartment. Partnerships can only be dissolved by a court. However,
they will not be able to marry, adopt children, or undergo fertility
Christian Verdon said that the result":
"... shows that we are a pluralistic society that defends its
minorities. Homosexuals have earned their place in society today. ... It
will give gay couples far more visibility. People only fear what they
don’t know. ... It would be a mistake to demand [adoption rights] now.
We still have plenty of work to do at the national level to explain to
people what being gay and registered partnerships mean."
Nicole Béguin, co-president of Switzerland's lesbian organizations, said
the result indicated that the Swiss accepted homosexuals. She said:
years ago, such a proposal would never have been approved."
Christian Waber of the Federal Democratic Union said:
"We are surprised by the result which is better than we expected
since we managed to get over 40 per cent of the vote. ... Children
especially will no longer understand what heterosexuality represents.
... We will see society become more 'homosexual'." 10
Partners Task Force for Gay & Lesbian Couples listed additional
rights and privileges enjoyed by every married couple in Switzerland but
denied same-sex couples:
Naturalization (which is made easier with legal marriage);
Adoption of children;
Fertility treatments ;
Taking the same last name;
Foreign same-sex marriages are recognized only as registered
Same-sex couples' legal surnames remain unchanged in the government's birth, marriage
and death registers. However, they can take a joint surname for informal
A foreign registered partner of a Swiss citizen are entitled to a residence
permit from Swiss immigration authorities. However, they do not have an
automatic right to a Swiss passport or expedited naturalization.
Same-sex marriages solemnized in other countries are recognized only as
registered partnerships in Switzerland.
This is believed to be the first instance where a country has given
voters the final vote on whether to grant partnership rights to same-sex
2007-JAN-01: The registered partnership law took effect. 11 It is expected to supersede the
PcCS laws and Zurich's registered partnership law.
2007-AUG-20: There appears to be no activity yet to promote
adoption and fertility treatment rights for same-sex couples.
2016-FEB-29: Swiss voters very narrowly rejected a referendum titled "For the couple and the family." It was initiated and promoted by the Christian Democratic People's Party as a ban of discrimination in the form of extra taxes against opposite-sex married couples. However, it would also have modified the Constitution to ban same-sex marriage. The vote was 50.8% to 49.2%.
Joyce Hamilton of ILGA-Europe’s Executive Board said:
"This initiative was anti-LGBTI sentiment masquerading as tax reform. ... The Swiss public saw through the proposal and said they didn’t want to be part of it."
The campaign by LGBT activists:
" ... helped voters to understand the issues at stake, illustrated that it wasn’t all about taxes, and warned people of the inequality they could be voting for unintentionally." 12
(ILGA-Europe is headquartered in Brussels, Belgium. It represents Europe and Central Asia in the International advocacy group" Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans and Intersex Association.) 13
The following information sources were used to prepare and update the above
essay. The hyperlinks are not necessarily still active today.