Lawmakers in Switzerland approved two historic bills Friday, one establishing marriage equality and the other making it easier for transgender and intersex residents to change the name and gender marker on official documents.
Both houses of the Federal Assembly, Switzerland’s parliament, passed the marriage equality bill by large margins — 136-48 in the National Council, the lower house, and 24-11 in the Council of States, the upper house, the Washington Blade reports. Such legislation has been under debate since 2013.
But the Federal Democratic Union, a far-right, Christian-identified political party, announced plans to call a national referendum on same-sex marriage, according to Swiss publication The Local. LGBTQ+ activists, however, said they’re ready for a challenge and expect voters to affirm equal marriage rights if there is a referendum.
“We have 82 percent of the population behind us and, thanks to the mobilization of the LGBT community, our partner organizations, and the political parties who support us, we will be able to further increase acceptance of LGBT people in society,” Matthias Erhardt, deputy president of a national committee that advocated for marriage equality, told The Local.
Switzerland was one of just a few European nations without marriage equality. It had offered registered partnerships to same-sex couples, but those did not confer all the rights of marriage.
Just hours after approving marriage equality, lawmakers OK’d legislation that will allow trans and intersex people in Switzerland to change their legal name and gender marker by simply making a declaration at a government office, according to TGEU, a trans rights group. Previously they had to go to court to do so.
“The new law will not only simplify and standardise the procedure but will also be less expensive, quicker and based on self-determination,” notes a press release from the group.
“Especially given the backlash against trans people’s human rights in 2020, we are happy to see this law pass before the end of the year,” TGEU Executive Director Masen Davis said in the release. “Some countries have shown major step-backs in legal gender recognition, such as Hungary or Russia. It offers our communities some hope to see the Swiss example.”
There’s a possibility that this law will be challenged in a referendum too, but if it is not, the government will set a date for it to go into effect.
The legislation included one setback, however. Switzerland had allowed people of any age to go through a court procedure to make these changes and did not require parental consent for minors. The new law mandates consent from a parent or guardian for people under age 16.
“We are saddened about the Swiss parliament’s decision to turn back the clock and introduce a provision that discriminates against trans children and youth,” TGEU Policy Officer Jonas Hamm said in the release. “We hope Swiss lawmakers will reconsider the issue and ensure that [legal gender recognition] is available to everyone on the basis of self-determination, without age limitations in place.”