Monday, October 18, 2021

Gay marriage wins major victory in Switzerland; Belgium sets stage for union as 28th country to permit gay marriage

A Swiss referendum on same-sex marriage passed Saturday by a wide margin, and the marriage equality movement won a big victory in neighboring Belgium, which on Saturday became the 29th country in the world to allow gay marriages.

The Swiss referendum was held because the Swiss constitution includes a ban on polygamy, which makes allowing same-sex marriage legal a delicate maneuver. But the referendum passed with 61 percent of the vote, paving the way for marriage equality in the land of 10,000 lakes.

From the Washington Post:

Romano Prodi, the former prime minister of Italy, told the Associated Press he believed the passing of the measure would be “disastrous” for conservative groups, which had gathered enough signatures to stage the referendum. “This is a big step forward and has finally broken through the Swiss constitution’s exclusion of same-sex unions,” said Prodi, a member of a group seeking gay marriage.

A total of 132,307 people turned out to vote, according to Swiss News Agency SDA.

Belgium went forward with its same-sex marriage law at the beginning of the year.

Belgium’s laws allow couples to marry, to have joint bank accounts and to adopt children. The same-sex marriage law went into effect in early February.

As national polls showed that same-sex marriage was likely to pass, legislators in Belgium rushed to pass the law. It became law on Feb. 14, a much more rapid process than had been anticipated, allowing Belgian couples to start wed three days before the bill passed into law.

Like Belgium, Switzerland is also home to an international high-tech hub, its biotechnology sector employing tens of thousands of workers, and many of them are gay.

The United States is one of the last major countries in the world that bars gay marriages, and is not likely to change that anytime soon. Proposed legislation in Washington that would expand the definition of marriage to include same-sex couples is expected to come up before the end of the year.

But even as those federal and state initiatives remain in limbo, the gay rights movement has made important gains at the local and state level in recent years. North Carolina became the first state in the South to allow gay couples to marry in November, and this past month Maryland, Maine and Washington state legalized gay marriage.

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