Switzerland’s largest Roman Catholic diocese has announced it will welcome the arrival of civil marriage equality in the country and will even conduct blessings for same-sex unions, as long as the rites differ from marriage ceremonies.
The Legal Affairs Committee of the Swiss National Council, the lower house of the Federal Assembly — Switzerland’s national governing body — voted August 30 to advance marriage equality legislation to the full National Council, which will likely consider it this fall, Swiss church news site Novena reports. A spokesman for the Diocese of Basel welcomed the news, and his response is just now being widely covered by both conservative and liberal Catholic groups in the U.S.
“We welcome the proposed regulations that give homosexual partnerships stable and reliable legal protection,” spokesman Hansruedi Huber told Luzerner Zeitung, a German-language newspaper in Lucerne, Switzerland. “It is important to us that children who grow up in same-sex partnerships receive a legal framework that serves the best interests of the child.” Huber also said priests within the diocese may bless such unions, but the ceremonies “must differ in content and form from the church wedding.”
The bishop of Basel, Felix Gmur, had made a similar distinction in a 2017 interview with the Swiss newspaper Aargauer Zeitung, saying, “One does not bless the bond, but the two same-sex people on their common path together. … In the celebration of the church, one should avoid anything that is reminiscent of a marriage: the exchange of rings, the yes-word, the eternal promise of fidelity.”
The idea of even this not-quite-marriage raised the hackles of Church Militant, a far-right Catholic site that queried the diocese on whether it “affirms or denies the Catholic Church’s teaching on homosexual acts being intrinsically evil.” The site has received no answer so far, according to an article published Wednesday.
Across the ideological spectrum, New Ways Ministry, a U.S.-based group that advocates for LGBTQ equality within the church, saw the Swiss statements as a sign of progress. “The Diocese of Basel’s leaders, and many other church leaders, have shown the church has every reason to and must support civil marriage equality as what is best for LGBTQ families,” New Ways’ Robert Shine wrote in a blog post this week.