LGBT rights in Switzerland

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LGBT rights in Switzerland
Location of  LGBT rights in Switzerland  (green)in Europe  (dark grey)  –  [Legend]
Location of  LGBT rights in Switzerland  (green)

in Europe  (dark grey)  –  [Legend]

Same-sex sexual activity legal? Legal in Geneva, Ticino, Vaud, and Valais since 1798. Legal nationwide since 1942. Age of consent equalised in 1992 through referendum.
Gender identity/expression Gender change is legal.
Military service Gays and lesbians allowed to serve in army.
Discrimination protections Sexual orientation protection in labor code since 2001 (see below)
Family rights
Recognition of
Registered partnerships since 2007.
Adoption Some adoption rights since 2016; Full adoption banned
Gay Pride Parade in Zurich.

LGBT rights in Switzerland have evolved since the nationwide legalisation of homosexual acts in 1942, however LGBT persons may be faced with legal challenges not experienced by non-LGBT residents. Whilst the rights of individuals have traditionally had a high priority in Switzerland, there is a strong contrast between urban and rural areas with respect to public discourse about the rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender citizens. Although some personal attitudes may change more slowly than legislation, the general public is tolerant of LGBT people, and thus bias-motivated violence and discrimination are uncommon. There are vibrant LGBT communities with a range of gay and lesbian subculture in the cities of Zurich, Bern, and Geneva, as well as the regional centres of Basel, Lucerne, Lausanne, and St Gallen.

The age of consent has been equal for heterosexual and homosexual sex since 1992, transgender people have the right to change their legal gender, LGBT persons are protected by anti-discrimination laws, and there has been legal recognition for same-sex relationships since 2007. Some adoption rights have been available since 2016. However, anti-LGBT hate speech is yet to be outlawed, and same-sex couples are unable to fully adopt or marry.


Coming Out Day[edit]

Since the mid-1990s, an annual Coming Out Day has been held with various publicity events in order to encourage LGBT people to develop a positive relationship with their identity, particularly among young LGBT people.

Law regarding same-sex sexual activity[edit]

Same-sex sexual activity was decriminalised nationwide in 1942 though in the cantons of Geneva, Ticino, Vaud and Valais, same-sex sexual activities were decriminalized in 1798 in accordance with the Napoleonic Code.[citation needed]

The higher age of consent for same-sex sexual activity (20 years instead of 16 for heterosexual sexual activity) was repealed by the criminal law reform of 1992.[1] In a national referendum on 17 May 1992, 73% of the voters accepted the reform of Swiss Federal legislation on sexual offences, including the elimination of all discrimination against homosexuality from the Penal Code. Article 187 of the Criminal Code states that the general age of consent for sexual activity in Switzerland is 16 years.

Recognition of same-sex relationships[edit]

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

Registered partnerships have been recognized since 1 January 2007, when the Partnership Act came into force. The cantons of Geneva, Fribourg, Neuchatel and Zurich have allowed registered partnerships for some time. In 2007, one in ten of all marriages in the Canton of Zurich were registered partnerships between members of the same sex, and it has registered 702 couples as of 2008.[2]

Adoption and parenting[edit]

Single people, regardless of sexual orientation, may adopt children, but there is no legal provision for same-sex couples to adopt children. However, the law may be revised to allow same-sex couples to adopt following a decision by the European Court of Human Rights on a case in France.[3]

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.[4] This article makes Swiss registered partnerships one of the most liberal partnerships, giving the couple a real role in being parents.

Adoption reforms[edit]

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.[5] 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.

Surprisingly, the Council of States, the upper house (Senate) of the federal parliament, traditionally more conservative, accepted a few days later the petition and the Legal Affairs Committee even went further, by approving 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 the member of the Swiss People's Party representing the national-conservatist orientation traditionally opposed to LGBT rights.[6] In February 2012, the Federal Council, the executive, responded by informing the Council of States that they are in favour of step-child adoption but against full joint adoption rights.[7] On 14 March 2012, the Council of States approved (21–19) the complete full extension of adoption rights for homosexuals regardless of marital status or sexual orientation.[8]

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[9] to grant homosexuals 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.[10] 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.[11]

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.[12][13] The bill must now be approved by parliament, though opponents have already announced they will force an optional referendum.[14] 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 step-child adoption by same-sex couples.[15] In March 2016, the full Council of States voted 25 to 14 to approve it.[16] In May 2016, the National Council's Committee on Legal Affairs voted 15 to 9 to approve the proposal[17] and the full National Council approved the step-child adoption bill with 113 to 64 votes.[18] 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.[19][20] Members of several parties have announced an effort to force a referendum following the publication of Parliament's positive decision on the bill in the country's Federal Gazette.[21]

Discrimination protections[edit]

Since 1999, governmental discrimination based on sexual orientation has been constitutionally prohibited. Article 8 of the Constitution of the Swiss Confederation prohibits discrimination on the basis of way of life. Homosexuality is no longer mentioned in the Military Criminal Code, so LGBT people are allowed to serve in the army.

Claude Janiak, State Councillor (Senator) and former National Council President, is involved in AIDS work, Network, and the Pink Cross.

On 7 March 2013, Mathias Reynard, member of the Social Democratic Party, introduced in the Swiss Parliament a bill to outlaw all forms of discrimination, including hate speeches, on the basis of race, ethnicity, religion and sexual orientation.[22] On 11 March 2015, the National Council approved the bill. It was passed 103-73.[23][24] The Committee of Legal Affairs of the Council of States allowed the bill to proceed on 23 April 2015.

On 25 May 2016, the Swiss Federal Council published a report on laws affecting the LGBT community in Switzerland. The report revealed that Swiss laws are lacunar. In its conclusion, the Swiss Government announced plans to ban hate speeches on the basis of sexual orientation (see above) and all forms of discrimination on the basis of gender identity and sex characteristics.[25]

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.

Gender identity[edit]

Since 1 February 2012, the Federal Office for Civil Registration (EAZW/OFEC/UFSC) depending of the Federal Department of Justice and Police issued a statement that the country, based on the Council of Europe's recommendations, would cease to oblige a person to go through forced sterilisation in order to have a legal change of gender recognised by the State. Furthermore, a person is granted to choose their legal gender irrespective of their assigned gender.[26]

The Federal Office for Civil Registration also stated that marriage can be converted into a Registered Partnership.[27]

On 25 May 2016, the Swiss Federal Council published a report on laws affecting the LGBT community in Switzerland (see above). The Swiss Government also announced plans to look into designing a law allowing transgender people to change their legal gender in the Civil Register without the need for surgery.[25]

Conversion therapy[edit]

On 13 March 2016, Conservative Democrat MP Rosmarie Quadranti proposed a parliamentary motion which would outlaw conversion therapy on LGBT minors. She said: "When I heard about this type of treatment I got shivers. I never thought this could happen in the 21st century."[28][29]

On 26 May 2016, the Swiss Federal Council expressed its opinion on the motion proposed by Mrs. Quadranti. It argued that conversion therapies are cruel, dangerous and ineffective. However they should not be banned by the executive but by the cantons, youth organizations or the Courts. The Council also indicated that such practices are already de facto illegal in Switzerland and as such there is no need to take additional measures. Any person who knows that a minor is in danger or in a situation which may harm them, can call the authorities who have the power to order measures of protection. Additionally Switzerland already has a well-developed network of public and private institutions that must apply to the State to operate effectively.[30] The official response from the Swiss Government:

These pseudo-therapies are not only ineffective, but they are also a source of great suffering for children and adolescents. And society must protect minors from all practices affecting their mental or physical health.

Positions of political parties[edit]

Among the major political parties, the Social Democratic Party (SPS/PSS), the Green Party (GPS/PES), the Green Liberal Party (GLP/PVL) and the Conservative Democratic Party (BDP/PBD) are generally in favour of LGBT rights whereas the Christian Democratic People's Party (CVP/PDC) and the Swiss People's Party (SVP/UDC) are generally opposed.[31] The FDP.The Liberals (FDP/PLR) are mostly divided on the issue.[32]

Blood donation[edit]

In 1977, a ban on gay and bi men donating blood was enacted. The ban was due to the HIV/AIDS pandemic.[33]

In June 2016, the Swiss Red Cross announced it would address a request to Swissmedic, Switzerland's surveillance authority for medicines and medical devices who has the last word on the matter, and ask for the ban to be lifted. Under the new rules, gay and bi men will be able to donate blood and stem cells after a one year deferral period, beginning January 2017.[33][34][35]

Summary table[edit]

Same-sex sexual activity legal Yes (Since 1942)
Equal age of consent Yes (Since 1992)
Anti-discrimination laws in employment only Yes (Since 1999)
Anti-discrimination laws in the provision of goods and services Yes (Since 1999)
Anti-discrimination laws in all other areas (incl. indirect discrimination, hate speech) No (Pending)
Same-sex marriages No (Pending)
Recognition of same-sex couples Yes (Since 2007)
Step-child adoption by same-sex couples Yes (Since 2016)
Joint adoption by same-sex couples No
Gays and lesbians allowed to serve openly in the military Yes
Right to change legal gender Yes
Access to IVF for lesbians No
Conversion therapy on minors outlawed Yes (De facto)
Commercial surrogacy for gay male couples No (Banned for heterosexual couples as well)
MSMs allowed to donate blood No (Pending)

See also[edit]

Notes and references[edit]

  1. ^ (English) State-sponsored Homophobia A world survey of laws prohibiting same sex activity between consenting adults
  2. ^ (German) Kein Run aufs Standesamt, Swissinfo, accessed 1 November 2009
  3. ^ {de} Adoptionsrecht wieder im Fokus
  4. ^ {fr} Article 27: «Partner's children»
  5. ^ {fr} Le National ne veut pas voir les couples homosexuels adopter, Swissinfo, accessed on 15 December 2012
  6. ^ {fr} Coup de pouce des Sénateurs à l'adoption, 360, accessed on 15 December 2012
  7. ^ "Schweizer Regierung gegen Adoptionsrecht für Homo-Paare". 22 February 2012. 
  8. ^ (French) Le Conseil des Etats accepte l'adoption des couples homosexuels, Le Matin
  9. ^ {en} Swiss lawmakers vote to allow some gays to adopt, France24, 15 December 2012
  10. ^ {en} Rainbow families: Gays granted more adoption rights, Swissinfo, 15 December 2012
  11. ^ Motion CAJ-CE. Droit de l'adoption. Mêmes chances pour toutes les familles, Council of States, retrieved on 21 April 2013
  12. ^ "Suisse: Le gouvernement propose d’ouvrir l’adoption aux couples de même sexe". Yagg. 2 December 2014. 
  13. ^ "Bundesrat will Stiefkindadoption ermöglichen". 28 November 2014. 
  14. ^ "Adoption: les opposants en ordre de bataille". 7 September 2014. 
  15. ^ "Ständeratskommission befürwortet Adoptionen". 12 January 2016. 
  16. ^ "Homosexuelle sollen Stiefkinder adoptieren dürfen". 
  17. ^ "Nationalratskommission für Adoptionsrecht". 13 May 2016. 
  18. ^ "Schweiz: Stiefkindadoption wird Gesetz". Männer. 14 May 2016. 
  19. ^ Swiss Parliament votes in favor of stepchild adoption
  20. ^ Touzain, François (17 June 2016). "«Oui» final à la réforme de l’adoption" (in French). 360°. 
  21. ^ Un comité va contrer le droit à l’adoption pour les couples homosexuels
  22. ^ "Lutter contre les discriminations basées sur l'orientation sexuelle" (in French). Le Parliament suisse. Retrieved 1 May 2016. 
  23. ^ Morgan, Joe (12 March 2015). "Switzerland votes for law to protect LGBTIs from prejudice". Gay Star News. 
  24. ^ (French) Bulletin Officiel
  25. ^ a b Touzain, François (26 May 2016). "La protection des LGBTI en Suisse est lacunaire". 360°. 
  26. ^ (French) Victoire pour les trans suisses,, retrieved on 11 May 2013
  27. ^ (French) Avis de droit OFEC: Transsexualisme, Federal Department of Justice and Police, retrieved on 11 May 2013
  28. ^ "Gay teen forced into therapy ‘cure’ by Christian community". The Local. 14 March 2016. 
  29. ^ (French) «L’Etat doit tout faire pour interdire ces pratiques»
  30. ^ "Berne dénonce les thérapies de conversion". Le Matin (Switzerland). 26 May 2016. 
  31. ^ "#WahlCH15: Parteien im LGBT-Check". 20 September 2015. 
  32. ^ "Swiss Political Parties Reveal Their Colours". Swissinfo. September 11, 2015. 
  33. ^ a b "Ban on gay men giving blood in Switzerland set to be lifted". The 21 June 2016. 
  34. ^ Touzain, François (21 June 2016). "Timide ouverture pour le don du sang" (in French). 360°. 
  35. ^ (German) Homosexuelle Männer sollen Blut spenden dürfen

External links[edit]