A daycare center in Switzerland has come under fire for turning away a pair of twin boys because they have gay parents.
Stefan and his husband, Rosha, attempted to enroll their three-and-a-half-year-old sons Rahul and Rafael in a playgroup in Lenzburg, a town of 10,000 people just over 20 miles from Zurich. A playgroup is a bit similar to the Head Start program in the United States: It meets for half the day and is intended to provide early education and socialization skills to youngsters before they enter pre-school.
But according to the Swiss newspaper 20 Minutes, the family was informed the boys would not be welcome in the playgroup because their parents’ relationship is “neither normal nor natural.”
Its director, who was not named in the report, added that the center was also concerned that allowing children with gay fathers to enroll would open them up to discrimination from other youths. “She said that children can be very mean, and that’s why she didn’t want to welcome the kids of a gay couple,” said Stefan, who was only referred to by his first name in the story.
While the treatment that the family experienced was clearly discriminatory, it may not be illegal. Christoph Hofstetter, the town clerk in Lenzburg, claimed the playgroup has no obligation to abide by national nondiscrimination laws because it does not receive public funds. Switzerland bans discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity in areas like housing and employment.
Furthermore, the Swiss Playgroup Federation told 20 Minutes that anyone who wishes to start a playgroup in Switzerland doesn’t need qualifications to do so — as the program is not mandatory.
Advocacy groups say the case is a reminder of how far the country still has to go when it comes to ensuring that LGBTQ+ people are protected in all areas of public life. For instance, Switzerland has yet to pass a marriage equality bill — instead allowing couples to apply for civil unions — and bans same-sex adoptions.
“This incident shows that protection against hate and discrimination is a necessity,” said Cordula Niklaus, vice president of the lesbian community organization Wybernet.
But while the Swiss parliament debates updates to the civil code that would finally allow same-sex couples to marry and adopt, LGBTQ+ citizens reacted to the discrimination case in Lenzburg by showing their support for the family. Local activists reportedly held a kiss-in Saturday that attracted 15 attendees.
While Stefan and Rosha are unsure if they will seek another playgroup for their boys, the couple is glad people are paying attention to their story.
“It’s good that our case led to a discussion about homophobia in society,” Stefan said. “We hope that no other gay or lesbian couple will have to face the same discrimination that we did.”