The Swiss canton state of Geneva authorized a law Thursday giving unmarried partners many of the same rights as married couples. Geneva is the first of Switzerlands 26 cantons (state) to grant such benefits to nontraditional couples, including homosexuals. Geneva is proving that the principle of legal equality between married and unmarried couples is possible at the federal level, said Yves de Matteis of the Swiss gay mens organization Pink Cross. The legislation gives unmarried couples the right to apply for housing together, to be considered next of kin for hospital or prison visits, and to not be a witness in court against each other. These couples, however, are still ineligible for cantonal social security payments and do not have the same tax status as married couples. The legislation also does not cover inheritance, the right to adopt children, and access to artificial insemination. We are very satisfied, even if this is only a first step, De Matteis said. Similar laws exist elsewhere in Europe. France, Norway, and Sweden allow gay couples to register their partnerships. Denmark and the Netherlands have even more comprehensive laws that legalize gay marriage.