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Same sex marriages, civil unions, etc.

Registered partnerships in Switzerland

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bullet1994: 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
bullet1996-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
bullet1996-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
bullet1999-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
bullet2001-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
bullet2002-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:

"For the lesbians and gays of the canton of Zurich, this historic 'yes' signifies that the state no longer considers them second-class citizens."  3,4

bullet2002-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
bullet2003: The Canton of Zurich same-sex registered partnership law came into effect.
bullet2004-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.
bullet2004-JUL: The PcCS was expanded to the Canton of Neuchâtel. By 2005-FEB, 35 opposite-sex and 21 same-sex couples had registered. 5
bullet2005-MAY-19: According to SwissInfo, 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'."

bullet2005-MAY-25: A survey revealed that 67% of the public support the law. 7
bullet2005-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 those voting 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 treatment. 9

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:

"Ten 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:

bulletNaturalization (which is made easier with legal marriage);
bulletAdoption of children;
bulletFertility treatments ;
bulletTaking the same last name;
bulletForeign same-sex marriages are recognized only as registered partnerships. 5

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 day-to-day activities.

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 couples. 10

bullet2007-JAN-01: The registered partnership law took effect. 11 It is expected to supersede the PcCS laws and Zurich's registered partnership law.
bullet2007-AUG-20: There appears to be no activity yet to promote adoption and fertility treatment rights for same-sex couples.

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References used:

The following information sources were used to prepare and update the above essay. The hyperlinks are not necessarily still active today.

  1. "Country: Switzerland," The International Lesbian and Gay Association, at: http://www.ilga.info/
  2. "Registered Partnerships & Same-Sex Marriage in Switzerland," AngloINFO Geneva, at: http://geneva.angloinfo.com/
  3. "Swiss State Recognizes Gay Partners as Legal Unions," The Gay Financial Network, 2002-SEP-24, at: http://www.gfn.com/news/
  4. "Zurich voters approve gay marriage rights," Gay.com Network, 2002-SEP-23, at:
  5. "Demian," Registered Partnership: The Swiss Approach," Partners Task Force for Gay & Lesbian Couples, at: http://www.buddybuddy.com/
  6. "Geneva Dispatch #2: Switzerland Approves Same-Sex Partnerships," Opinio Juris, 2005-JUL-28, at: http://lawofnations.blogspot.com/
  7. "Voters to decide on gay partnerships," SwissInfo, 2005-MAY-19, at: http://www.swissinfo.org/
  8. "Election Guide," 2005-JUN-05, at: http://www.electionguide.org/
  9. "Swiss vote for same-sex rights," Associated Press, 2005-JUN-05, at: http://www.cnn.com/
  10. "Gay couples win partnership rights," Swiss Info, 2005-JUN-05, at: http://www.swissinfo.org/
  11. "Registered Partnerships," Federal Department of Justice and Police, 2006-JUN-28, at: http://www.ejpd.admin.ch/

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Copyright © 2007 by Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance
Originally written: 2007-AUG-19
Latest update: 2007-AUG-20
Author: B.A. Robinson

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