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Switzerland: Parliament Votes to Allow Same-Sex Marriage

(Jan. 25, 2021) On December 18, 2020, the Swiss Parliament adopted an amendment to the Swiss Civil Code that allows same-sex couples to enter into marriages. In addition, the amendment opens up sperm donation from a domestic sperm bank to married lesbian couples and extends the presumption of parenthood to the woman not carrying the child. The amendment was passed by a vote of 136 to 48 with nine abstentions in the National Council (lower house) and 24 to 11 with seven abstentions in the Council of States (upper house).

The legislation changes several provisions of the Swiss Civil Code to replace the words “bride” and “groom” with either “two people” or “the engaged.” In addition, there are consequential amendments to the Same-Sex Partnership Act, the Federal Act on Private International Law, and the Reproductive Medicine Act. Same-sex couples that are currently in a registered partnership may convert their registered partnership into a marriage. A registered partnership will be converted into a marriage if the same-sex couple declare before a Swiss civil registrar that they would like to enter into a marriage and they present the required documents. No new partnerships would be registered after December 18, 2020.

The parliamentary initiative to allow same-sex marriage was submitted in 2013 and was stalled several times due to disagreements, including over whether a constitutional amendment would be necessary.

Possible Referendum against the Amendment

The amendment of the Swiss Civil Code is subject to an optional referendum. According to article 141 of the Swiss Constitution, an optional referendum on a federal act will take place if “within 100 days of the official publication of the enactment any 50,000 persons eligible to vote or any eight Cantons request it.” The deadline for the submission of the signatures is April 10, 2021. A group of conservative politicians has announced that they will attempt to gather the required signatures, in particular because they allege that a constitutional amendment is necessary rather than a statute. However, a poll commissioned in November 2020 by a Swiss gay rights group showed that 82% of the Swiss population are in favor of same-sex marriage.