- Switzerland passed a new law to ban discrimination based on people’s sexual orientation on Sunday.
Swiss voters have easily passed a new law that will make it illegal to discriminate or stir up hate based on someone’s sexual orientation.
Switzerland’s parliament tried expanding the law in 2018. But by April 2019, opponents had collected 70,000 signatures to force a referendum on the law.
In fact, some have disputed the validity of the petition. People claimed they had signed the referendum demand by mistake, believing they were signing against homophobia.
Despite this, the referendum went ahead. Switzerland holds referendums several times a year. Indeed, to challenge a new law, all Swiss citizens must do is gather 50,000 signatures within 100 days of it passing through parliament.
In this case, opponents of the sexuality discrimination law worried it would violate people’s right to freedom of opinion.
But on Sunday, Swiss voters chose overwhelming to outlaw anti-gay discrimination.
The vote was 63.1% in favor of the new protections to 36.9% against. Indeed, of Switzerland’s 26 cantons – or states – only three had majorities against it. These were Appenzell-Innerrhoden, Schwyz and Uri.
What does the new Swiss law say?
Switzerland has outlawed discrimination based on race, ethnic origin or religion since 1995. The referendum victory means this now extends to sexual orientation.
Meanwhile, Switzerland already outlawed people from discriminating on the basis of sexuality when it comes to employment or to providing goods and services.
The tougher law will goes beyond many other countries discrimination policies. It is designed to outlaw hate against individuals or lesbian, gay and bi people as a group.
It bans people from inciting hatred or discrimination.
Moreover, it is now illegal to spread ideologies or run propaganda campaigns that aim to denigrate people for their sexuality.
And you can’t denigrate someone’s sexuality in a way which violates their human dignity.
The courts can punish violators with up to three years jail or a fine.
Why is gender identity not included?
At the moment, the law only protects lesbian, gay, bi and other people based on their sexual orientation. It doesn’t cover trans, non-binary or other people based on their gender identity.
Supporters of the law had wanted it to cover gender identity as well as sexuality. But opponents in the Swiss parliament voted several times to strike out ‘gender identity’. They claimed the term was too ‘vague’.
Transgender Network Switzerland said this decision ‘excludes and further marginalises intersex and transgender people. [The law] will only be complete when it condemns discrimination based on gender identity.’
Meanwhile Switzerland continues to consider whether it should have equal marriage, rather than just partnership recognition. Polling from 2019 shows 75% of Swiss people support marriage equality, with just 24% against and 1% undecided.