Swiss voters went to the polls and passed a referendum on marriage equality.
Legislation approving marriage equality has been passed by the country’s parliament late last year, but conservative groups mounted a last-ditch effort by forcing a referendum which went down to defeat with over 64 percent of the country voting in favor of marriage equality.
"It is a historic day for Switzerland, a historic day when it comes to equality for same-sex couples, and it is also an important day for the whole LGBT community," Jan Muller, of the "yes" campaign committee, told the AFP news agency and was quoted by France 24.
"Whoever loves each other and wants to get married will be able to do so, regardless of whether it is two men, two women, or a man and a woman," Karin Keller-Sutter, the country’s justice minister, told AFP/France 24, adding the first same-sex marriages would take place next year in July.
The results were overwhelmingly in support of marriage equality, with Swiss Info reporting 64.1 percent voted in favor of the referendum and winning in every canton. The mountainous country had been an outlier amid Europe, remaining one of the last countries in Western Europe to not approve of the practice.
Marriage equality and other LGBTQ+ protections were approved by the Swiss Parliament late last year, but conservative groups gathered enough signatures to force this month’s referendum. Similar legislation had been languishing in parliament for years. 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.
Same-sex civil partnerships have been legal since 2007, but they still did not enjoy the same benefits and privileges of marriages between members of the opposite sex.
Same-sex partnerships will now be able to jointly adopt children, rather than only adopting children parented by one member of the couple. Lesbian couples will now be able to access sperm banks and other medical services for the purpose of procreation. Same-sex couples will also receive the same expedited path to citizenship available to foreign spouses of Swiss citizens as well.
Opponents had attempted to frame the measure as dangerous to the welfare of children. They ran an aggressive campaign with posters suggesting marriage equality would conflict with conservative Swiss values and harm families and children. Monika Rüegger, federal deputy of the populist IDC party, told Swiss Info the referendum vote was a “black day” for children.
Deborah Heanni, an activist who had campaigned for the measure, disagreed.
"It is a day of celebration, of victory after eight years of electoral campaign," Heanni told Remo News, saying the country is now "on par with other countries in terms of openness and progress."