On Sunday, Swiss voters participated in a referendum deciding whether they wanted to extend Switzerland’s racism statutes to sexual orientation, and 63.1 percent voted in favor of it. Previously, Switzerland did not have a law protecting the LGBTQ community, but this amendment is a big step in the right direction.
Nearly two years ago lawmakers voted to include sexual orientation to discrimination laws based on race, ethnicity and religion. Because of the Switzerland’s system of direct democracy, the public has the right to call for a referendum putting a legislation to the citizens’ vote. Opposers of this movement declared that it violated freedom of speech rights. Despite the opposition’s attempt to hinder the legislation’s progress through referendum the majority voted to make homophobic comments punishable by law. Public discrimination and inciting hatred in speech, text, and images would be punishable with up to three years in prison.
Switzerland now joins other European countries like Denmark and the Netherlands making homophobia a criminal offense. Discrimination against sexual orientation is now official, but although same-sex partnerships are legal, same-sex marriage is still not. The opposition to the newly passed amendment voiced their concerns. A conservative political party, Federal Democratic Union labeled the legislation a “censorship bill” and claimed that people have the right to express unpopular opinions. An expert and researcher on preventing violence and discrimination, Caroline Dayer, clarified that the law would not restrict freedom of speech since “it would not penalize arguments held in private circles” and “insulting and promoting hatred is not discussing.”
Sources: The New York Times 2/9/20; USA Today 2/8/20; DW 2/9/20