Swiss voters back same-sex marriage and adoption by clear majority
New rules not expected to take effect until next July
Switzerland agreed to legalize civil marriage and the right to adopt children for same-sex couples by a nearly two-thirds majority in a referendum on Sunday, making it one of the last countries in western Europe to legalize gay marriage.
According to results provided by the Swiss federal chancellery, 64.1 per cent of voters were in favour of same-sex marriage in the nationwide referendum, which was conducted under Switzerland's system of direct democracy.
"We are very happy and relieved," said Antonia Hauswirth of the national committee Marriage for All, adding that supporters would celebrate in Switzerland's capital Bern on Sunday.
The amended law will make it possible for same-sex couples to get married and to adopt children unrelated to them. Married lesbian couples will also be allowed to have children through sperm donation, currently legal only for married heterosexual couples.
It will also make it easier for foreign spouses of a Swiss individual to get citizenship.
Amnesty International said in a statement that opening civil marriage to same-sex couples was a "milestone for equality."
Children, fathers 'losers here,' says opponent
However, Monika Rueegger of Switzerland's right-wing Swiss People's Party and a member of the referendum committee No to Marriage for All said she was disappointed.
"This was not about love and feelings, it was about children's welfare. Children and fathers are the losers here," she told Reuters.
At a polling station in Geneva on Sunday, voter Anna Leimgruber said she cast her ballot for the "no" camp because she believed "children would need to have a dad and a mom."
But Nicolas Dzierlatka, who voted "yes," said what children need is love.
Supporter says love not guaranteed with 'hetero' parents
"I think what's important for children is that they are loved and respected — and I think there are children who are not respected or loved in so-called hetero couples," he said.
Swiss Justice Minister Karin Keller-Sutter told a media briefing the new rules would likely come into force on July 1, 2022. Supporters say it could take that long to finalize the changes mainly because of administrative and legislative procedures.
Switzerland, with a population of 8.5 million, is traditionally conservative and only extended the right to vote to all of its women in 1990.
Most countries in western Europe already recognize same-sex marriage, while most of those in central and eastern Europe don't allow wedlock involving two men or two women.
With files from The Associated Press