Switzerland to vote on same-sex marriage

Posters are pictured before of a vote on same sex marriage in Geneva, Switzerland, September 23, 2021. Poster reads :
Posters are pictured before of a vote on same sex marriage in Geneva, Switzerland, September 23, 2021. Poster reads : "Love without privilege, yes to marriage for all".

Switzerland is one of the last countries in Western Europe, with Italy and Greece, to still ban gay marriage.

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Swiss voters are set to decide on Sunday whether same-sex couples will be allowed to marry and adopt children after an emotionally charged campaign in one of the last Western European countries to still ban gay marriage.

Switzerland's federal government and parliament voted in favour of opening civil marriage to same-sex couples, but conservative opponents forced a referendum on the issue under Switzerland's system of direct democracy.

Switzerland is one of the last countries in Western Europe, with Italy and Greece, to still ban gay marriage.

Corinne Guntern and Anouk Oswald, a young lesbian couple, said the 'Marriage for All' vote represented an important milestone for them as they planned their future.

"I want to be able to choose for myself if I want to marry this partner I have next to me and if it's the right path for us to start a family," Oswald, 30, said. "It's important to show the younger generation: you can... and you don't need to hide."

Guntern, also 30, said it wasn't fair a single woman could adopt a child while a same-sex couple couldn't.

"Of course, a child needs safety and love ... but I don't think it makes a difference whether that's given by a straight or gay couple," she said.

In the latest poll by gfs.bern for Swiss broadcaster SRG published last week, 63% of voters were set to approve same-sex marriage, while 35% were against it, showing the no-campaign had gained traction since the first poll in August.

Corinne Guntern and Anouk Oswald, a young lesbian couple, talk on their balcony in Zurich, Switzerland
Corinne Guntern and Anouk Oswald, a young lesbian couple, talk on their balcony in Zurich, Switzerland

Opponents say the amended law, which would also allow lesbian couples to have children through sperm donation, would deprive children of a father.

"No other civilization has ever deprived children from their fathers. And behind this deprivation, the paternal image is getting cancelled and if this law pass, it will have a long-term impact on the balance of society," Eric Bertinat, a member of 'papa-maman.ch', a referendum committee objecting the proposal, said.

He added that he was worried same-sex marriage would open the door for a vote on gestational surrogacy.

Civil partnerships were legalised in Switzerland in 2007, while, in 2018, same-sex couples received the right to adopt stepchildren already parented by their partner.

Geneva resident, Elias, who will vote 'yes' on September 26, praises the slow path his country took to bring this issue to a popular vote.

"Maybe it's better that it's happening like this rather than changing thing in a brutal way like they did in France and seeing hatred overflow and things that are not really nice to see. So, I prefer that it comes too late but with kind of a consensus in the society rather than we pass this by force," he said.

On the contrary, for Raphaele Arlettaz and her girlfriend, Kelly Gex both wearing wedding dresses and parading in a red convertible car during the Geneva Pride on September 11, Switzerland needs to catch up.

"We are really behind, compared to, for example, the Netherlands or many European countries," said Arlettaz.

"We are in Switzerland, a developed and rich country and here we are, we have to vote for this, for something that is so obvious, we shouldn't even have to vote for this," added Gex.

During the campaign, opponents used emotionally loaded images such as crying babies and the word "slaves" written over dark-skinned bare pregnant bellies, in a reference to surrogacy, which is illegal in Switzerland.

Xavier Lavatolli, co-president of the Geneva Pride, deplored a "brutal" campaign with "disgusting" images.