Swiss voters have approved the "Marriage for All" referendum by nearly a two-thirds majority

Switzerland, one of only a few countries in Western Europe that doesn’t yet have gay marriage, voted on its “Marriage for All” referendum on Sunday, September 29. Nearly two-thirds of voters approved the referendum.

Switzerland has recognized same-sex civil partnerships since 2007, but a partnership doesn’t have the same legal footing as a full marriage. Civil partners, for instance, are not allowed to co-adopt, and a citizen cannot sponsor their civil partner for citizenship.

The referendum, which was sponsored by the Swiss government but still up to the direct approval or disapproval of the voters, has been a controversial one. Early polls suggested 60 percent in favor of same-sex marriage, but the already narrow margin seemed to shrink as the vote came closer. Switzerland, despite a reputation for modernity, holds such deeply conservative views that universal women’s suffrage was only managed in 1990.

That’s not a typo. Switzerland had car phones and video games before all women had the vote.

With the passage of the referendum, same-sex couples in Switzerland will not immediately be able to marry, but the administrative engine will be set in motion to make it happen.

Also included in the vote is a clause that allows lesbian couples access to sperm donations, which was not previously allowed without judicial approval.

“This is a fight that goes back 20 years,” said Matthias Erhardt, an out City Council member in Geneva who supported making same-sex marriages legal in Switzerland. “I think it would be a step toward modernity.”

Swiss opponents to the law seemed mostly concerned with same-sex parentage.

“If the law is adopted, we are going to introduce into Swiss civil law a new institution: that of the child without a father,” Yves Nidegger, a national lawmaker from the right-wing, populist Swiss People’s Party, said, ignoring the fact that half of all same-sex couples would give a child not one but two fathers. That’s not to mention the fact that there are many, many children without fathers, including the 14,000-70,000 Swiss children in state care who will benefit from same-sex couples being allowed to adopt.

Image: Stefano Ember /