Switzerland to hold same-sex marriage referendum

Switzerland will hold a referendum on same-sex marriage, after a conservative group tallied enough signatures to force the issue to a vote.

Switzerland to hold same-sex marriage referendum
Will same sex marriage be allowed in Switzerland? Photo: FABRICE COFFRINI / AFP

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.  

READ MORE: Why homophobia will now be illegal in Switzerland

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. 

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Swiss decision to purchase US fighter jets could force second referendum

Switzerland's decision to purchase US-made fighter jets could be put to a referendum,

Swiss decision to purchase US fighter jets could force second referendum
Swiss fighter jets. Photo: JOE KLAMAR / AFP

Switzerland’s government on Wednesday backed the purchase of 36 F-35A fighter jets from Lockheed Martin to replace its fleet and five Patriot air defence units from fellow US manufacturer Raytheon.

Switzerland’s current air defence equipment will reach the end of its service life in 2030 and has been undergoing a long and hotly-contested search for replacements.

“The Federal Council is confident that these two systems are the most suitable for protecting the Swiss population from air threats in the future,” the government said in a statement.

‘No Trump fighter jets’: Swiss don’t want to buy American planes

The decision will now be put to the Swiss parliament — and also risks being challenged at the ballot box, with left-wingers and an anti-militarist group looking to garner enough signatures to trigger a public vote.

The F-35A was chosen ahead of the Airbus Eurofighter; the F/A-18 Super Hornet by Boeing; and French firm Dassault’s Rafale.

For the ground-based air defence (GBAD) system, Patriot was selected ahead of SAMP/T by France’s Eurosam.

“An evaluation has revealed that these two systems offer the highest overall benefit at the lowest overall cost,” the government statement said. Switzerland is famously neutral. However, its long-standing position is one of armed neutrality and the landlocked European country has mandatory conscription for men.

“A fleet of 36 aircraft would be large enough to cover Switzerland’s airspace protection needs over the longer term in a prolonged situation of heightened tensions,” the government said.

“The air force must be able to ensure that Swiss airspace cannot be used by foreign parties in a military conflict.” 

Long path to decision 

Switzerland began to seek replacements for its ageing fleet of fighter jets more than a decade ago, but the issue has become caught up in a political battle in the wealthy Alpine nation.

The Swiss government has long argued for the need to quickly replace its 30 or so F/A-18 Hornets, which will reach the end of their lifespan in 2030, and the F-5 Tigers, which have been in service for four decades and are not equipped for night flights.

In 2014, the country looked set to purchase 22 Gripen E fighter jets from Swedish group Saab, only to see the public vote against releasing the funds needed to go forward with the multi-billion-dollar deal.

Bern launched a new selection process four years later, and a referendum last year to release six billion Swiss francs ($6.5 billion) for the purchase of the fighters of the government’s choice squeezed through with 50.1 percent of voters in favour.

During the referendum campaign, the government warned that without a swift replacement for its fleet, “Switzerland will no longer be in a position to protect and even less defend its airspace by 2030”.

Currently, the fleet does not have the capacity to support ground troops for reconnaissance missions or to intervene against ground targets.

Meanwhile Switzerland’s current GBAD system is also old and lacks the capacity to meet the widening spectrum of modern threats.

The military currently relies on a range of Rapier and Stinger short-range missiles that have been in service since 1963.