The Swiss public are set to go to the polls on the issue of marriage equality, although an exact date for the referendum has not been set.
Why is a vote happening?
The national vote is the consequence of the Swiss political system, which allows the public to push law changes to a vote by tallying enough signatures.
In December 2020, Swiss parliament approved same-sex marriage – seven years after a parliamentary initiative calling upon them to do so.
As reported by Swiss news outlet Watson on Wednesday, the issue will now be put to a nationwide referendum after a group of conservative voters led by the right-wing Swiss People’s Party issued an objection to the law change.
The conservative group will now present their signatures opposing the law change on Monday, April 12th, after which the Federal Chancellery will review the signatures and confirm that a referendum is to take place.
A minimum of 50,000 signatures are needed to put the vote to a referendum, with conservative groups telling Swiss media that 60,000 signatures have been collected.
A date will then be set by Switzerland’s Federal Council at which the issue will be put to a referendum.
The initiative is expected to pass due to widespread support for same sex marriage across the country. While official polling is scarce, a poll commissioned by LGBTI advocates in December 2020 showed 82 percent of Swiss voters supported the idea.
In February 2020, 63 percent of Swiss voters approved a law banning discrimination based on sexual orientation.
No same-sex marriage in Switzerland
Switzerland is one of the last holdouts on same-sex marriage in Europe, with all of its neighbours other than Italy and Liechtenstein having already put in place laws that allow for same-sex marriage.
If approved, Switzerland would become the 29th country in the world to allow same-sex marriage.
In Switzerland, only civil unions are possible, having been put in place after a law change in 2004.
However, in addition to the symbolic value of marriage, proponents of the change point out that registered partnerships do not have the same rights as a marriage in Switzerland.
For instance, people in civil unions have fewer rights with regard to naturalisation and the adoption of children.