Registered partnership in Switzerland

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Switzerland has allowed registered partnerships for same-sex couples since 1 January 2007. A constitutional amendment to legalize same-sex marriage is currently pending before the Swiss Parliament. An amendment to the Constitution requires a majority of the people and cantons (states) vote in favor of the proposal in a referendum.

Registered partnerships[edit]

Laws regarding same-sex partnerships in Europe
  Marriage
  Foreign marriages recognized
  Other type of partnership
  Unregistered cohabitation
  Unrecognized
  Constitution limits marriage to opposite-sex couples

Includes laws[which?] that have not yet gone into effect.

In a nationwide referendum on 5 June 2005, the Swiss people approved by 58% a registered partnership law, granting same-sex couples the same rights and protections as married couples in terms of next of kin status, taxation, social security, insurance, and shared possession of a dwelling. However, same-sex couples would not have the same rights in terms of:

  • Full joint adoption of children.
  • Access to fertility treatments.
  • Facilitated Swiss naturalisation of the foreign partner. Swiss law provides a faster route to citizenship for the spouse of a Swiss citizen, but does not recognise same-sex marriages conducted in foreign countries, instead classing them as civil partnerships.

The official title of the same-sex union is "eingetragene Partnerschaft" in German, "partenariat enregistré" in French and "unione domestica registrata" in Italian. The bill was passed by the National Council, 111 to 72, on 3 December 2003 and by the Council of States on 3 June 2004, with minor changes.[1][2] The National Council approved it again on 10 June but the conservative Federal Democratic Union collected signatures to force a referendum.[3][4] Subsequently the Swiss people voted 58% in favor of the bill on 5 June 2005.[5] The law came into effect on 1 January 2007.[6] Switzerland was the first nation to pass a same-sex union law by referendum.

Opposite-sex couples[edit]

A map of how the Swiss electorate voted in the 2005 registered partnership referendum
  >60%
  50%-59%
  <49%

On 15 March 2016, the National Council approved two motions that would make registered partnerships also available to opposite-sex couples.[7] These motions were approved 96-83 and 96-82.[8]

Adoption and parenting[edit]

Single people, regardless of sexual orientation, may adopt children. A bill legalizing stepchild adoption for same-sex couples was approved by Parliament in Spring 2016. Opponents unsuccessfully tried to force a referendum on the bill. The law will come into effect on a yet to be announced date.[9]

Article 27 of the Registered Partnership Act treats the matter of the partner's child/children. The law states that the partner of the biological/adoptive parent must provide financial support for their partner's child and also possesses the full legal authority to represent the child in every matter as being the parent's partner. It also states that in the case of the couple's disband, the ex-partner has the right to keep close ties with their ex-partner's child.[10] This article makes Swiss registered partnerships one of the most liberal partnerships, giving the couple a real role in being parents.

In 2010, Swiss LGBT organisations started a petition, "Same Chances For All Families", demanding more adoption rights. On 30 September 2011, the National Council, the lower house of the federal Parliament, considered the petition but ultimately voted 83–97 against it.[11] However, the debate and close vote provided a view on the MPs' opinions and the evolution of minds, as for example Maja Ingold, MP of the Evangelical People's Party of Switzerland, who spoke for more recognition of gay and lesbian parents while her party campaigned against the Registered Partnership Act back in 2005. It became clear that, while there was no majority for full joint adoption, allowing adoption of one's partner's child could gather majority support in Parliament.

The Council of States, the upper house (Senate) of the federal Parliament accepted the petition and the Legal Affairs Committee approved a motion of openly gay MP Claude Janiak (SPS) backing the right to full joint adoption regardless of marital status or sexual orientation. In November 2011, the Committee voted unanimously in favour, including members of the conservative Swiss People's Party.[12] In February 2012, the Federal Council, the executive, responded by informing the Council of States that they are in favour of stepchild adoption but against full joint adoption rights.[13] On 14 March 2012, the Council of States approved (21–19) the complete full extension of adoption rights for same-sex couples regardless of marital status or sexual orientation.[14]

As the National Council refused it during the debate in September 2011, the bill had to be voted again by the lower chamber, which did so on 13 December 2012, as the National Council voted 113–64[15] to grant same-sex couples the right to adopt biological or adopted children that their partner had before the start of their relationship. However, the motion giving full adoption rights approved by the Council of States, was rejected by the National Council.[16] On 4 March 2013, the new version approved on 13 December 2012 by the National Council was accepted by the Council of States by a majority of 26–16.[17]

In November 2014, taking into account the parliamentary votes, the Federal Council approved allowing the adoption of one's partner's child, as part of a larger adoption reform.[18][19] The bill must now be approved by Parliament, though opponents have already announced they will force an optional referendum.[20] For such a referendum, citizens opposing the law have to gather 50,000 signatures within 100 days.

In January 2016, the Council of States Committee on Legal Affairs voted 7 to 3 with one abstention to approve the proposal to allow stepchild adoption by same-sex couples.[21] On 8 March 2016, the Council of States voted 25-14 in favor of the bill. Furthermore, it would apply to unmarried couples, whether same or different sex, and would also lower the minimum age to adopt from 35 to 28.[22][23] Former President Simonetta Sommaruga came out in support of the bill and stated that it is necessary to legally protect children already raised by same-sex couples. On 13 May 2016, the National Council's Committee on Legal Affairs voted 15-9 to approve the bill.[24] On 14 May 2016, the bill was approved by the National Council in a 113-64 vote.[25][26] Differing texts caused the two chambers to agree on a final, slightly modified version of the bill that was passed in Parliament on 17 June 2016 by a vote of 125-68 with 3 abstentions.[27][28] Under Swiss law, opponents of a bill passed by Parliament have one hundred days to collect 50,000 valid signatures. If enough signatures are gathered a referendum will take place, otherwise the bill will become law. Following the final vote in Parliament, a referendum committee was established including members of several different political parties with the aim of forcing a referendum on the bill. No major party supported the committee.[29][30] On 4 October 2016, it was confirmed that the referendum would not take place as only 20,000 signatures had been collected.[31] The Federal Council will now decide on a date for the law to take effect.

Facilitated naturalization[edit]

On 14 March 2016, the National Council approved a bill granting facilitated naturalization (which is seen as a easy route to acquire Swiss citizenship) to couples in registered partnerships. As of March 2016, a foreigner married to a Swiss would be eligible for Swiss citizenship within three years of marriage and five years of residency in the country, although this option would not be available to couples in registered partnerships.[32] The bill was approved 122 to 62.[33] On 26 September 2016, the Council of States decided that the bill should be voted upon simultaneously to the same-sex marriage bill.[34]

Pension benefits[edit]

At the end of August 2008, the Federal Court decided that long-term same-sex partners were entitled to the same vested benefits from the pension of the deceased as equivalent opposite sex partners have. A shared apartment is not necessary.

Statistics[edit]

The first same-sex partnership was registered on 2 January 2007 in the Italian-speaking canton of Ticino.[35]

From 2007 to 2015, 8,004 same-sex partnerships were registered in Switzerland.[36] The canton of Zurich saw the most partnerships with 2,528. The cantons of Vaud and Bern had 888 and 866, respectively. The canton with the least partnerships was Appenzell Innerrhoden. Only 7 partnerships were registered in the canton.

Year Female couples Male couples Total
2007 573 1431 2004
2008 271 660 931
2009 284 588 872
2010 221 499 720
2011 246 426 672
2012 267 428 695
2013 230 463 693
2014 270 450 720
2015 259 438 697

Cantonal laws[edit]

"Same-sex partnerships are allowed in Switzerland." Image from a 2016 Lucerne cantonal government publication for refugees.

Registered partnerships[edit]

The canton of Geneva has had a partnership law on cantonal level since 2001. It grants unmarried couples, whether same-sex or opposite-sex, many rights, responsibilities and protections that married couples have. However, it does not allow benefits in taxation, social security, or health insurance premiums (unlike the federal law). The origin of the law lies in the French civil solidarity pact law.[37][38][39][40]

In Autumn 2016, the Department of Public Instruction of the Canton of Geneva innovated new forms in schools allowing same-sex parents to be fully recognized. Previously same-sex parents could not be inscribed properly, as only a mother and a father could be listed. The new forms include two boxes entitled "parent" and no longer one "father" and another "mother".[41]

On 22 September 2002, the canton of Zurich passed a same-sex partnership law by referendum (62.7% in favor) that goes further than Geneva's law, but requires couples to live together for six months before registering.[42]

In July 2004, the canton of Neuchâtel passed, in a 65-38 vote, a law recognizing unmarried couples.[43][44]

Registered partnerships for same-sex couples are included in the Constitution of the canton of Fribourg.[45] In May 2004, voters approved the new Constitution with 58.03% in favor and 41.97% against.[46] It took effect on 1 January 2005.

Marriage[edit]

On 6 June 2016, the Cantonal Council of Zurich voted 110-52 to reject a proposal put forward by the Federal Democratic Union (EDU) (the party who initially began collecting signatures to force a referendum on the registered partnership law in 2004) to define marriage as a union between one man and one woman in the Constitution of Zurich, thus constitutionally banning same-sex marriage in the canton.[47][48] EDU and most members of the Swiss People's Party were in favor, while all other parties, including the Christian Democratic People's Party and the Evangelical People's Party, were against. The EDU gathered 6,000 signatures to force a cantonal referendum on the proposal. The referendum took place on 27 November 2016, where it was overwhelmingly rejected. 80.9% voted against the proposal, while 19.1% voted in favor.[49] In some parts of the canton, the "No" gained 92% of the votes.[50] All municipalities rejected the referendum.

Initiative «Schutz der Ehe»
Choice Votes  %
Referendum failed No 319,501 80.91
Yes 75,362 19.09
Total votes 394,863 100.00

Same-sex marriage[edit]

Same-sex marriage is supported by the Green Party,[51] the Conservative Democratic Party,[52] and some politicians from the Social Democratic Party and the Liberals.

In 2012, Parliament requested the executive Swiss Federal Council to examine how to update family law to reflect changes in society.[53] In March 2015, the council released its governmental report about marriage and new rights for families, raising the possibility of the introduction of registered partnership for straight couples and same-sex marriage for gay and lesbian couples.[54] President Simonetta Sommaruga, in charge of the Federal Department of Justice and Police, also stated she hoped that gay and lesbian couples would soon be allowed to marry.[55]

Green Liberal Party's parliamentary initiative[edit]

In December 2013, the Green Liberal Party submitted a parliamentary initiative for a constitutional amendment, with the aim of legalising same-sex marriage.[56][57] This amendment would be subject to approval by voters in a referendum after completing the parliamentary process.

On 20 February 2015, the Committee for Legal Affairs of the National Council voted to proceed with the initiative, by 12 votes to 9, with 1 abstention.[58] In May 2015, a petition supporting the bill was launched. The signatures collected were submitted to the Committee for Legal Affairs of the Council of States before they discussed the bill, hoping to persuade them to support it.[59][60] On 1 September 2015, the upper house's Legal Affairs Committee voted by 7 votes to 5 to proceed with the initiative.[61]

The National Council's Legal Affairs Committee was then tasked to draft an act within two years (per Article 111 of the Constitution), i.e. by 2017. However, due to the complexity of the legal reform, the National Council's Legal Affairs Committee proposed on 11 May 2017 to extend the initiative's deadline by another two years (i.e. by 2019) and ask the government administration for further study of the issue.[62][63] A minority consisting of the Swiss People's Party (SVP-UDC) wanted to block the initiative. On 16 June 2017, the National Council voted by 118-71 in favour of the committee's proposal to continue with the initiative.[64][65] As of 2017, the 2013 initiative is still continuing through the slow Swiss legislative process.[66]

The Christian Democrats' popular initiative "For the couple and the family"[edit]

The Christian Democratic People's Party of Switzerland (CVP/PDC) started in 2011 with gathering signatures for a popular initiative entitled "For the couple and the family - No to the penalty of marriage" (German: Für Ehe und Familie – gegen die Heiratsstrafe; French: Pour le couple et la famille - Non à la pénalisation du mariage). This initiative would change article 14 of the Swiss Federal Constitution and aimed to put equal fiscal rights and equal social security benefits between married couples and unmarried cohabiting couples. However, the text aimed to introduce as well in the Constitution for the first time ever the definition of marriage, which would be the sole "union between a man and a woman".[67]

In November 2012, signature gathering ended and the initiative was submitted. The Swiss Federal Council reviewed the initiative and decided to support it. In October 2013, it formally asked Parliament to recommend voters to approve the initiative.[68]

On 10 December 2014, the lower chamber of Parliament discussed the initiative. The Greens proposed to amend the bill stating that « any forms of unions » couldn't be penalised and the Green Liberals proposed to amend the bill such as « the marriage and all the other forms of union defined by the Law » couldn't be penalised.[69]

The debates opposed mainly the Swiss People's Party's MPs and the Christian Democrats to the Green Liberals, the Greens, the Social Democrats and the Conservative Democrats. The Liberals were mostly divided on the issue.[52] The Swiss People Party and the Christian Democrats' MPs opposed any form of homophobia. On the other hand, the main other parties pointed out the discrimination the initiative would introduce and furthermore called on openness for a future definition of marriage including same-sex marriage. Some MP's even called the Christian Democrats as a « retrograde » party.[70]

After having rejected both counterpropositions of the Greens and the Green Liberals, the National Council finally approved the counterproposition elaborated by the Commission for Economic Affairs and Taxation keeping the same spirit of the initiative but removing any definition of marriage being solely possible between a man and a woman. The counterproposition was approved 102–86 thus rejecting the popular initiative and recommending the Swiss electorate to reject the initiative and to accept the counterproposition.[71]

The Council of States (Senate) approved on 4 March 2015, in a 24–19 vote, the counterproposition voted on 10 December 2014 by the lower house thus rejecting de facto the Christian Democrats' initiative.[72] The debates in the upper house also focused mainly on the marriage's definition that would introduce a discrimination towards the LGBT community, though the idea of equal fiscal rights and equal social security benefits between married couples and unmarried cohabiting couples was unopposed.[73] A few Liberal Party members changed their mind, causing the counterproposal to fail in the Council of State. Subsequently in June 2015 a conciliation conference between both chambers of Parliament decided to recommend rejecting the original initiative.[74] On 19 June 2015, the formal order of Parliament recommending voters to reject the initiative was published.[75]

On 17 November 2015, the Federal Council also recommended rejecting the initiative. It supported the initiative two years earlier, but now was obliged to change its position because Parliament is opposed.[76][77]

The vote[edit]

The Swiss were called to vote on the Christian Democrats' proposal in a referendum on 28 February 2016.[78] The people had to decide whether to define marriage as a "durable cohabitation of a man and a woman", that "must not be disadvantaged in comparison of other lifestyles",[79] thus making same-sex marriage constitutionally prohibited.

Amongst parliamentary parties, the Christian Democrats (apart from the Young Christian Democrats of Zurich and Geneva, who had declared their opposition to the initiative of their parent party[80][81]), the national-conservative Swiss People's Party and the conservative Evangelical People's Party campaigned for the «Yes». Meanwhile, the Social Democrats, the Liberals, the Greens, the Conservative Democrats and the Green Liberals opposed the text and campaigned for the «No» along with Amnesty International Switzerland, Economiesuisse (Employers' organization), the Swiss Federation of Trade Unions and Operation Libero.

A month before the vote, various polls showed 67% of support (22 January 2016) and 53% of support (17 February 2016).[82]

On 28 February 2016, the initiative was narrowly rejected by 50.8% of voters with 1,609,328 in favor and 1,664,217 against with only 54,979 votes separating the two camps meanwhile the majority of the cantons largely approved the initiative (16,5:6,5). The cantons of Geneva, Vaud, Bern, Zurich, Grisons, Basel-Stadt, Basel-Landschaft and Appenzell Ausserrhoden rejected the initiative.[83] Therefore, the proposal which sought to define marriage as a union between a man and a woman was rejected, leaving the way open for the Green Liberal Party's initiative on the legalization of same-sex marriage that must be debated from now on through parliamentary procedures.

Public opinion[edit]

According to an Ifop poll conducted in May 2013, 63% of Swiss supported allowing same-sex couples to marry and adopt children.[84]

After the National Council's Committee of Law Affairs' decision to approve same-sex marriage, two opinion polls released on 22 February 2015 showed a support of 54% (Léger Marketing for Blick[85]) and 71% (GfS Zurich for SonntagsZeitung[86]) allowing same-sex couples to marry and adopt children.

A poll carried out between April and May 2016 showed that 69% of the Swiss population support same-sex marriage, 25% oppose and 6% are unsure. 94% of Green voters support its legalization. 59% of voters from the Swiss People's Party and 63% of Christian Democrat voters support it, respectively.[87][88]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

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  7. ^ (in French) Retrouvez le débat du National sur un «pacs» suisse
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External links[edit]