Swiss government emphatically backs marriage equality ahead of vital referendum

swiss referendum

In Switzerland, the government has thrown its support behind same-sex marriage ahead of a landmark referendum on the issue.

In a press conference on Tuesday (22 June), Swiss justice minister Karin Keller-Sutter declared the federal council would be supporting marriage equality ahead of the vote in September.

“The state should not value private relationships and nor should it deny same-sex couples marriage,” she said, noting that the current option of registered partnerships is not on an equal footing with marriage.

“Even symbolically, the registered partnership does not have the same meaning as marriage,” the minister added.

With a laugh, she dismissed the suggestion that marriages of three or more people would soon follow. She also rejected claims that equal marriage would harm children, highlighting the fact that “children who grow up with same-sex parents are already a reality today”.

When Switzerland revised its adoption laws in 2018, “it was recognised that two same-sex people can be responsible for one child,” she continued. “Care and attention and not the family constellation are important for the development of the child.”

She concluded: “There is no disadvantage for anyone with this template. There is no reason for the federal council to exclude same-sex couples from marriage.”

Keller-Sutter’s statement was followed by a press release outlining the government’s position in full, saying: “Parliament wants to eliminate this inequality and open marriage to all couples.”

It’s a huge step for LGBT+ rights in Switzerland, a conservative country that’s lagged far behind most of Europe when it comes to LGBT+ rights. The first law banning LGBT+ discrimination only passed as recently as last year.

The upcoming referendum will be the final hurdle in a campaign that LGBT+ advocates have been fighting since 2013, when the first version of the marriage equality bill was introduced by the Green Party.

Seven years of drawn out debate and modifications followed as Switzerland’s far-right parties fiercely opposed the bill, declaring it “intolerable to want to place marriage on an equal footing with any form of cohabitation”.

The Swiss parliament finally approved the bill in December 2020, by which time polls showed that more than 80 per cent of Swiss supported same-sex marriage.

Nevertheless, opponents still managed to gather enough signatures to force a binding referendum on the issue. The referendum will take place on 26 September.