The wait is over for members of the LGBT community in Switzerland, where parliament has recently passed a bill to protect members of the community from discrimination. In this western-European nation, where people are legally protected from harassment based on ethnicity or religion, the LGBT community has campaigned vigorously for the same protection of their rights.
BBC News reported that after Parliament met on February 9, the resulting vote for passing the bill was 63.1 percent, exceeding expectations for supporters and opposers of the bill alike. Yet, The Guardian reports that this new law faces opposition from some members of the Swiss population.
While many protesters of the bill are justifying their actions with religious beliefs, others are more concerned that their own rights will be infringed. As a law criminalizing homophobia is also being considered in Switzerland, some citizens fear they would face jail time for a mere comment or joke that appears to be off-putting or homophobic.
Others believe that the law would do more harm than good to members of the country’s queer community, citing its potential to demote them as a “weak minority in need of protection.”
Supporters of the new bill, on the other hand, argue quite the opposite. As Switzerland ranks below most of its surrounding states regarding gay rights, the community is delighted over this surge in empowerment and acceptance in their home country. People firmly believe that it is a stepping-stone for the community, and hopefully there will be a push for more efforts to ensure the safety and prosperity of gay and transgender people.
Additionally, another freedom will potentially be granted to gays in the near future – marriage.
With a bill to legalize same-sex marriage currently being considered by parliament, Switzerland could become the next state in Europe to legally permit and recognize same-sex marriage. As of yet, Switzerland and Italy are the only countries in western Europe that still ban gay marriages. While civil unions are sometimes recognized in these two states, same-sex couples cannot legally adopt children or claim an inheritance or insurance benefits, in the case where their partner dies.
Regarding the criminalizing of homophobic acts, Swiss supporters reassure the concerned people that their rights to free speech will not be infringed, as long as their words or opinions are not used to cause deliberate harm to others, USA Today reported. However, public discrimination or harassment based on sexual orientation or gender identity could mean up to three years in prison for the perpetrator. Many see it as recognizing the human right to personal safety and freedom of expression, albeit others find this law intimidating.
Overall, these recent efforts by the Swiss government have opened the doors for a new era in LGBT culture, one where people are guaranteed safety, protection, and happiness, regardless of who they love or what they identify as. While they may continue to face opposition and oppression in the country and throughout the world, the public appears to have a change of heart. With this new move in public policy, more queer people will gradually be liberated from discrimination and fear.