On Sunday, the Swiss overwhelmingly voted to legalise same-sex marriages, with almost two thirds or 64.1% approving the measure.

The “Ja, ich will!” or ‘Yes, I do’ campaign, which was also the official slogan of Switzerland’s “Marriage for All” movement, resonated with most voters. All 23 cantons or states in Switzerland voted in favour of marriage equality.

The referendum brings Switzerland in line with many other western European countries, leaving Italy as the only major country in the region where same-sex marriages are still outlawed.

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The vote will not only allow same-sex couples to marry, but they will now have the same rights as heterosexual couples to start families. The referendum grants same-sex couples the right to adopt children together and for foreign same-sex spouses the right to obtain citizenship in the Alpine state.

During a press briefing, Swiss Justice Minister Karin Keller-Sutter informed the public that the new legislations would come into effect on July 1, 2022.

A Milestone For Equality

“We are very happy and relieved,” said Antonia Hauswirth of the national committee “Marriage for All”, to Reuters.

In a statement, Amnesty International said that opening civil marriage to same-sex couples marks a “milestone for equality”.

Since 2007, registered partnerships have been an option for same-sex couples in Switzerland. Leading up to the vote, polls from 2020 suggested that 82% would check the “yes” box, effectively predicting that the outcome would be in favour of the new law.

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It is not only LGBTQAI+ rights that were delayed in Switzerland when compared to the rest of Western Europe – the country did not extend the right to vote to all women until 1990. 

Right-Wing Parties Forced The National Vote

Last year, the Swiss Parliament had passed a bill recognising same-sex marriages. The law, however, could not come into force after conservative politicians called for a “protection of traditions”. They raised enough signatures to trigger a national vote on the issue. 

Switzerland’s system of direct democracy allows any law gathering at least 50,000 signatures within 100 days to be vetoed by the public resulting in a referendum. The petition against the marriage equality law gathered 61,027 valid signatures, forcing the issue to be decided in a referendum.

The fact that the amended law will allow same-sex couples to start families through adoption and other measures, previously only possible for married opposite-sex couples, had already invited the wrath of right-wing parties who expressed disappointment over Sunday’s results.

“This was not about love and feelings, it was about children’s welfare. Children and fathers are the losers here,” Monika Rueegger of Switzerland’s Swiss People’s Party (SVP) and member of the referendum committee “No to Marriage for All”, told Reuters.

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