Switzerland has just passed a historic law that finally legalizes same-sex marriage in the country. This makes Switzerland the 29th country in the world to extend that freedom to same-sex couples.
The new freedom comes after the Swiss National Council approved a same-sex marriage bill earlier this week. And while the law focuses on marriage equality, it also extends protections allowing lesbian couples to use sperm banks for the first time in the country’s history. In the past, same-sex couples were only allowed to be registered as domestic partnerships in Switzerland.
Both houses of the Federal Assembly, Switzerland’s parliament, passed the marriage equality bill by a major margin: 136 to 48 in the lower house and 24 to 11 in the upper house. A marriage equality bill was first proposed in 2013 by Switzerland’s Green Party, but the effort toiled for so long in the Federal Assembly that they fell behind on the initiative.
But despite the law now existing, the Federal Democratic Union, a far-right and religious political party, has announced plans to call a national referendum on same-sex marriage legalization, according to The Local. However, LGBTQ+ activists say they’re not going to shy away from the challenge, as they expect the law to be affirmed if so.
“We have 82 percent of the population behind us and, thanks to the mobilization of the LGBT community, our partner organizations, and the political parties who support us, we will be able to further increase acceptance of LGBT people in society,” Matthias Erhardt, the deputy president of a Swiss marriage equality organization, told The Local.
And just hours after approving the marriage equality bill, Swiss lawmakers also passed legislation that will allow trans and intersex people in the country to change their legal name and gender marker simply by declaring it at the governmental office. Previously, anyone wishing to change their name and legal markers was required to go to court.
“The new law will not only simplify and standardise the procedure but will also be less expensive, quicker and based on self-determination,” reads a press release from TGEU, a European/central Asian trans rights group.
However, despite the initial praise for the trans rights law, many are now criticizing a specific aspect. Before, when legal document changes could only be made in court, anyone of any age was permitted to go through the court to make the changes without parental consent. The new law, though, mandates that consent from a parent or guardian is required for those under 16.
“We are saddened about the Swiss parliament’s decision to turn back the clock and introduce a provision that discriminates against trans children and youth,” Jonas Hamm, TGEU’s Policy Officer, said in the press release. “We hope Swiss lawmakers will reconsider the issue and ensure that [legal gender recognition] is available to everyone on the basis of self-determination, without age limitations in place.”