Registered partnership in Switzerland
Switzerland has allowed registered partnerships for same-sex couples since 1 January 2007. A bill to legalize same-sex marriage is currently pending before the Swiss Parliament. If Parliament approves it, a referendum on the bill will be necessary as it is a constitutional amendment. An amendment to the Constitution requires a majority of the people and cantons (states) vote in favor of the proposal.
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:
- joint adoption of children.
- 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. The National Council approved it again on 10 June but the conservative Federal Democratic Union collected signatures to force a referendum. Subsequently the Swiss people voted 58% in favor of the bill on 5 June 2005. The law came into effect on 1 January 2007. Switzerland was the first nation to pass a same-sex union law by referendum.
On 8 March 2016, the Council of States voted 25-14 in favor of a bill which would allow a person in a registered partnership to adopt their partner's biological children thus granting stepchild adoption to same-sex couples. 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. 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. On 14 May 2016, the bill was approved by the National Council in a 113-64 vote. 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. 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. On 4 October 2016, it was confirmed that the referendum would not take place as only 20,000 signatures had been collected. The Federal Council will now decide on an effective date for the law to take effect.
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. The bill was approved 122 to 62. On 26 September 2016, the Council of States decided that the bill should be voted upon simultaneously to the same-sex marriage bill.
From 2007 to 2015, 8,004 same-sex partnerships were registered in Switzerland. 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|
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.
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.
Registered partnerships for same-sex couples are included in the Constitution of the canton of Fribourg. In May 2004, voters approved the new Constitution with 58.03% in favor and 41.97% against. It took effect on 1 January 2005.
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. 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. Since the proposal was accompanied with 6,000 signatures, a cantonal referendum will take place in the near future.
Same-sex marriage for Switzerland is supported by the Green Party, according to its 2007 electoral manifesto, as well as some politicians from the Social Democratic Party and the Liberals. The Conservative Democratic Party supports same-sex marriage.
In December 2013, the Green Liberal Party, aiming for the legalisation of same-sex marriage, submitted a parliamentary initiative for a constitutional amendment. On 20 February 2015, the Committee for Legal Affairs of the National Council voted to proceed with this initiative by 12 votes in favour to 9 against and 1 abstention. In May 2015, a petition supporting the bill was launched. The signatures collected were given to the Committee for Legal Affairs of the Council of States before they would deliberate the bill, hoping to sway them into supporting it. On 1 September 2015, the upper house's Legal Affairs Committee voted 7 to 5 to proceed with the initiative. The National Council's Legal Affairs Committee can now draft an act.
In March 2015, the Swiss Federal Council released a governmental report about marriage and new rights for families. It opens the possibility to introduce a registered partnership for straight couples as well as same-sex marriage for gay and lesbian couples. Then Swiss President Simonetta Sommaruga, in charge of the Federal Department of Justice and Police, also stated she hoped personally that gay and lesbian couples would soon be allowed to marry.
The Christian Democrats' popular initiative "For the couple and the family"
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".
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.
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.
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. 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.
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.
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. 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. 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. On 19 June 2015, the formal order of Parliament recommending voters to reject the initiative was published.
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.
The Swiss were called to vote on the Christian Democrats' proposal in a referendum on 28 February 2016. 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", 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), 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).
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. 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.
According to an Ifop poll conducted in May 2013, 63% of Swiss supported allowing same-sex couples to marry and adopt children.
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) and 71% (GfS Zurich for SonntagsZeitung) 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.
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- Parliament gives its blessing to gay couples
- Fight goes on for gay couples
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- First same-sex union registered in Switzerland
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