Voters in Switzerland's most populous state decided by an overwhelming margin Sunday to give same-sex couples rights previously reserved for married couples. In a joint statement, three Swiss gay rights groups said it is the first time in history that legal rights for gay and lesbian couples have been decided at the ballot. By a 63%-37% margin, voters in the Swiss canton of Zurich approved civil registration for same-sex couples. They will have the same tax, inheritance, and social security benefits as heterosexual married couples.
While a number of other European countries already recognize same-sex unions, Zurich is the first Swiss canton to do so. Similar efforts are under way elsewhere in the country. Partners must live in the Zurich canton and formally commit themselves six months in advance to running a joint home and providing each other with mutual support and aid.
"For the lesbians and gays of the canton of Zurich, this historic yes signifies that the state no longer considers them second-class citizens,'' read the joint statement by the Swiss Lesbian Organization; the Pink Cross, the Swiss Organization of Gays; and Friends and Parents of Lesbians and Gays. The groups said the governing Swiss cabinet should now move for all of Switzerland to treat same-sex couples and married couples with "perfect equality."