Huge crowds of people took to the streets of Switzerland on Saturday to protest for the legalisation of same-sex marriage.
Public broadcaster SRF reported that tens of thousands of people and at least 70 LGBT+ groups participated in the Zurich Pride parade, which bore the slogan “You can do it. Marriage for everyone now.”
Others marched with signs saying “Ja, ich will” (Yes, I do), the slogan of Switzerland’s Marriage for All movement.
The protests came ahead of a national referendum on 26 September on the legalisation of same-sex marriage, which has already been introduced in many other European countries including Germany, Austria, France and the Netherlands.
Currently same-sex couples can only get official approval for civil unions, which are not on equal footing as marriages. But the referendum, if it passes, would have the Swiss Civil Code change words from “bride” and “groom” to “the engaged” or simply “two people”.
It would also allow same-sex couples to adopt children, grant lesbian couples easier access to sperm donations and make it simpler for foreign partners to gain Swiss citizenship.
The bill was unanimously approved last year by the Swiss parliament after seven years of drawn-out debate, and is supported by an overwhelming majority of the population.
A November 2020 study from LGBT+ organisation Pink Cross found that 82 per cent of the public backed same-sex marriage, 72 per cent supported same-sex adoption and 70 per cent agreed same-sex couples should have access to sperm donation.
Nevertheless, opponents of the legislation managed to gather enough signatures to challenge the bill and force a national referendum on the issue.
The vote is the final hurdle in a long journey to equality for the conservative country, which has lagged behind most of Europe when it comes to LGBT+ rights.
Switzerland’s first law banning LGBT+ discrimination only passed as recently as February 2020; this too went to a referendum.
“Many Swiss people tend to overrate how modern our country is,” activist Anna Rosenwasser told the BBC ahead of the vote last year. “It might be rich, but it’s really not modern yet.”