Swiss voters will now decide the fate of marriage equality in their country.
Marriage equality and other LGBTQ+ protections were approved by the Swiss Parliament late last year, but according to a report in Watson, a coalition of conservative groups gathered enough signatures to force a referendum. While the move is seen as a setback by some, a recent poll found four out of every five Swiss citizens support same-sex marriage, and the referendum is expected to confirm the bill and make marriage equality the law of the land.
Legislation recognizing marriage equality had been languishing in parliament for years before it was finally passed in December. Switzerland had previously banned conversion therapy, expanded anti-discrimination laws to include sexual orientation and gender identity, allowed LGBTQ+ people to serve in the military, but had not officially approved marriage equality.
Using a constitutional loophole, though, a coalition of conversative lawmakers and political groups opposed to the measure gathered a reported 60,000 signatures in support of a public referendum on the issue — this was 10,000 more than needed. Led by the right-wing Swiss People’s Party, the coalition said they will turn in the signatures to the Federal Chancellery next week. If the required number of signatures are confirmed, a date will be set for a nationwide vote.
Regardless of whether the signatures are confirmed and a referendum takes place, the coalition’s hope of thwarting the legislation appear dim at best. Marriage equality is widely supported in the country, with 82 percent expressing their approval in a recent poll commissioned by the LGBTQ+ group Pink Cross.
In addition to extending the rights of marriage to the LGBTQ+ community, the earlier legislation also granted protections for women accessing sperm banks to start their own families.
“The equal access of female couples to sperm donation in Switzerland relieves those affected from a great deal of suffering,” Maria von Känel of Marriage for All Committee said of the legislation last year.
Despite its progressive reputation, Switzerland remains one of the last holdouts in the battle for marriage equality. It will become the 29th country to recognize marriage equality if voters approve the referendum as expected.