By Denis Balibouse and Cecile Mantovani
LAUSANNE, Switzerland (Reuters) – When a civil partnership was legalized in Switzerland in January 2007, gay couple Laurent Marmier and Yves Bugnon completed the document in the same month, making them among the first to take advantage of the new law.
Thirteen years later, they hope Wednesday’s parliamentary elections will open the door for them to finally get married and enjoy full equality with heterosexual couples.
“We don’t have the same rights, not completely. And this is what bothers us,” said Bugnon, a music teacher in the French-speaking city of Lausanne.
Conservative Switzerland lags behind many countries in Western Europe on gay rights and slowly catches up. In February, voters endorsed anti-homophobia laws which provide legal protection for lesbians, gays and bisexuals.
A survey conducted by the gay rights association Pink Cross shows that more than 80% of Swiss people support same-sex marriage.
However, the country’s political institutions tend to be more conservative than the general public, Socialist MP Mathias Reynard told Reuters. “The Swiss support – but it all takes time.”
Proposals for same-sex marriage are expected to pass through the lower house but still have to clean the upper house. Then, in line with the Swiss direct democratic process, it can be challenged through a referendum if the opponent collects the required 50,000 voter signatures in 100 days.
The dominant People’s Party (SVP) opposed the law but an official did not respond to a request to comment on whether they would seek a referendum on the issue.
The fact that gay marriage is not legal here has more than symbolic importance for couples. Marital status has to do with adoption and assisted reproductive rights, including sperm donations for lesbian couples.
Marmier said he hoped the law would be passed but added it was important that other issues were also discussed in the new law.
“I think it is important to move forward and we do not wait 13 years to pass the next step,” he said.
(Writing by Emma Farge; Editing by Gareth Jones)
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