Switzerland’s parliament has opened discussions on introducing same-sex marriage.
Switzerland is one of the few countries in western Europe not to offer marriage equality.
It has had civil partnerships since January 2007 which offer similar, but not exactly equal, rights.
Now the lower house of parliament – the National Council – has broadly supported marriage equality in a debate this week. Most representatives backed the idea, despite opposition from the People’ Party (SVP) which is the largest party in the council but doesn’t have an overall majority.
Observers expect same-sex marriage to pass the National Council in a vote soon.
However, it will still have to pass through the Council of States, the upper house of the Federal Assembly. Success there is less certain.
Moreover there could be a final hurdle. Switzerland has a direct democracy. So if opponents gather 50,000 voter signatures in 100 days, they can challenge new laws via a referendum.
As things stand, the SVP hasn’t expressed whether it will ask for a referendum on the issue.
Huge support for equal marriage in Switzerland
Furthermore, Swiss people overwhelmingly support same-sex marriage.
LGBT+ campaign organization Pink Cross commissioned a survey in February this year on the issue. The independent gfs group found 81% support same-sex marriage with 63% saying they strongly support it.
That’s against only 18% opposing marriage equality with just 10% strongly opposed.
Moreover, a majority of voters for all major parties are in favor. This includes an incredible 96% of Greens. But even among the more socially conservative SVP voters, 67% back marriage equality.
Even religious groups in the country support the change. The Swiss Reformed Church backed marriage equality last year and some churches conduct same-sex blessings.
And a 2016 referendum rejected a proposal which would have banned same-sex marriage by stealth.
Meanwhile Switzerland passed an anti-homophobia law in a referendum in February this year. The vote passed easily with 63% in favor and just 37% against. Indeed, of Switzerland’s 26 cantons – or states – only three had majorities against it.
Notably, marriage equality is not just a symbolic issue in Switzerland.
Equal marriage will also give same-sex couples access to joint adoption and allow sperm donation for female couples.