Switzerland voted to approve a referendum on September 26 that would grant same-sex marriage rights to LGBTQ couples.
The referendum passed by a nearly two-thirds majority vote, with 64.1 percent of voters throwing their weight behind same-sex marriage, according to nationwide results provided by the Swiss federal chancellery, Reuters reports. Under the new law, LGBTQ partners not only have the right to get married and adopt children, but lesbian couples are allowed to access sperm donations, and foreign partners can gain approval for Swiss citizenship. This decision puts Switzerland in line with other western nations that support marriage equality. For years, Switzerland had remained one of the few European countries — Italy is another — without full LGBTQ marriage rights.
Antonia Hauswirth of the national committee “Marriage for All” told Reuters that residents are “happy and relieved” with the final results of the vote. Hauswirth added that advocates and residents alike took to the streets of Switzerland’s capital Bern to celebrate the historic victory.
Amnesty International echoed a similar sentiment, calling the decision a “milestone for equality.”
“Marriage for all will strengthen the acceptance of LGBTQ+ people in society,” Amnesty International said in a written statement to Gay City News. “In countries that have already taken this step, prejudice and attacks against them have decreased, as have suicide rates.”
The group added. “This historic vote makes Switzerland the twenty-ninth country to recognize same-sex marriage and clearly signals that LGBTQ+ people must have the same rights as everyone else, and have full protection under the law equal to that of other people. We encourage Switzerland to continue to protect and realize the rights of LGBTQ+ people.”
This decision comes amid other actions that support LGBTQ rights. Last year, the country passed a law protecting LGBTQ people against discrimination, and Swiss lawmakers loosened restrictions, making it easier for trans people to legally change their gender. Transgender people there can now take that step based on their own sworn statement — rather than requesting a doctor’s note about their medical transition.
In 2007, Switzerland approved same-sex civil partnerships, which denied same-sex couples certain marriage rights such as adopting children. Swiss Justice Minister Karin Keller-Sutter announced that the new rules would take effect in July of next year.