Switzerland could become the first Western European country to block gay marriage through a referendum changing its constitution.
On 28 February 2016, Swiss citizens are called to vote in a referendum on four confederate bills; one of them, titled For Marriage and Family – against the marriage penalty, could block marriage equality.
Initiated by the Christian Democratic People’s Party of Switzerland (CVP), part of the Swiss coalition government, the civil initiative seeks to add a paragraph into the federal constitution defining marriage as being between man and woman.
Marriage penalty describes the concept of some married couples having to pay more in taxes than straight, non-married couples; the initiative is looking to change this.
‘Marriage is the long-term and legally regulated relationship between man and woman. In fiscal regards, it’s an economic community,’ the additional paragraph is proposed to read.
‘It mustn’t be put at a disadvantaged in comparison to other relationship models, neither in taxes nor in social insurances.’
Critics are saying the vote is breaking the unity of the subject matter, the ground rule of Swiss referendum procedure, as it would see citizens decide on two issues – taxation of married couples and the definition of marriage – rather than just one.
A report by Swiss Federal Council states there is no issue with the vote, as there is a ‘factual coherence’ between both parts of the initiative.
Although Parliament rejected the proposed changes, the Council’s report also asks representatives of cantons and the National Council to recommend people vote in favor of the proposal.
Under Swiss law, it’s not just the majority of citizens who must vote in favor for an initiative to pass, but a majority of cantons must also return the same result.
A 2014 poll by Swiss LGBTI organization Pink Cross showed that, in the referendum which would bring tax relief, but also make same-sex marriage impossible, 30.2% would tend to vote yes, compared to 52.1% rather supporting a no vote and 17.6% of voters being undecided.