Switzerland votes for same-sex marriage, easing legal gender change

Friday, 18 December 2020 19:30 GMT

A poster is pictured on a wall at Vogay, an association for the sexual and gender diversity, after an interview about the upcoming "gay wedding" vote in the Swiss Parliament in Lausanne, Switzerland, June 1, 2020. Picture taken June 1, 2020. The poster reads: Here we respect the sexual and gender diversity. REUTERS/Denis Balibouse

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Swiss parliament votes for "self-ID" for transgender people and same-sex marriage, which is likely to face a referendum

By Rachel Savage

LONDON, Dec 18 (Openly) - Swiss lawmakers voted on Friday to legalise same-sex marriage and allow transgender people to change their legal gender by making a declaration, marking a major step forward for LGBT+ rights in the country, campaigners said.

The gay marriage law is likely to be tested in a nationwide referendum next year before it takes effect, but rights activists said they expected it to secure popular support.

"This is not only a milestone in the fight for the rights of the Swiss LGBT population, but also an important victory for their dignity, their acceptance and their inclusion in society," Marriage For All, a campaign group, said on its website.

Switzerland had lagged behind other parts of western Europe on LGBT+ rights, with political institutions tending to be more conservative than the public.

A law protecting lesbian, gay and bisexual people from discrimination was only passed earlier this year.

Under the legislation approved by parliament on Friday, trans people will be able to change their gender on identity documents by making a declaration at civil registry offices.

That would make Switzerland the eighth European country to allow trans people to legally change gender without the involvement of a doctor or a court, in what is known as "self-ID", according to advocacy group Transgender Europe.

The minimum age for changing gender legally without parental consent was set at 16, drawing criticism from trans rights advocates.

They noted that at present name changes and medical treatments related to transitioning gender do not require parental consent for the under-16s.

"On the one hand, we're super happy there will be this legal gender recognition based on self-determination, in a very quick and simple procedure," said Alecs Recher, the head of legal services at Transgender Network Switzerland, an advocacy group.

"But, on the other hand, it's a major step back for those under 16," he told the Thomson Reuters Foundation,

Under current rules, both children and adults have to apply to a court to change gender, said Recher, whose organisation supports trans people through the legal procedure, which can cost up to 1,000 Swiss Francs ($1,130).

Switzerland will become the 29th country to allow same-sex marriage, if the law - which will also let lesbian couples conceive using sperm donation - comes into force.

Opponents have 100 days to collect the 50,000 signatures needed to trigger a referendum.

A survey commissioned by a gay advocacy group Pink Cross in February showed more than 80% of Swiss support same-sex marriage, suggesting the law would take effect even if opponents garner enough signatures to force a referendum.

Related stories:

Swiss lawmakers clear way for same-sex marriage bill

Swiss gays hope for marriage equality ahead of parliamentary vote

FACTBOX - State of same-sex marriages globally as Pope Francis backs civil unions

($1 = 0.8847 Swiss francs) (Reporting by Rachel Savage @rachelmsavage; Editing by Helen Popper. Please credit the Thomson Reuters Foundation, the charitable arm of Thomson Reuters, that covers the lives of people around the world who struggle to live freely or fairly. Visit http://news.trust.org)

Openly is an initiative of the Thomson Reuters Foundation dedicated to impartial coverage of LGBT+ issues from around the world.

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