'Marriage for all'? Swiss voters to decide same-sex marriage

Switzerland Same Sex Marriage

GENEVA (AP) — Voters in Switzerland will decide Sunday whether to allow same-sex marriages in the rich Alpine country, one of the few in Western Europe where gay and lesbian couples do not already have the right to wed.

Switzerland has authorized same-sex civil partnerships since 2007. The Swiss government, which has endorsed the “Marriage for All” referendum, says passage would put same-sex partners on equal legal footing with heterosexual couples by allowing them to adopt children together and to sponsor a spouse for citizenship.

Opponents have argued that replacing civil partnerships with full marriage rights somehow would undermine families based on a union between one man and one woman.

Polls suggest the referendum, which also would allow lesbian couples to utilize regulated sperm donation, is set to pass. The most recent polls have suggested it has about 60% support, but the margin has narrowed as the vote has gotten closer.

The campaign has been rife with allegations of unfair tactics, with the opposing sides decrying the ripping down of posters, LGBT hotlines getting flooded with complaints, hostile e-mails and shouted insults against campaigners, and efforts to silence opposing views.

Switzerland, which has a population of 8.5 million and international prestige due to Geneva's role as the home of the United Nations in Europe, is traditionally conservative and only extended the right to vote to all its women in 1990.

Depending on the geopolitical definition used to describe Western Europe, the country is the only, one of two or part of a handful of nations in the region that don't recognize same-sex marriages. Greece, Italy and the microstates of Andorra, Monaco and San Marino also among the places that only allow local couples to marry if they are a man and a woman.

Most countries in central and Eastern Europe do not allow wedlock involving two men or two women.

Even if the Swiss referendum passes, supporters say it would be months before same-sex couples could get married, due mainly to administrative and legislative procedures.

Unlike in many other European countries, where elected lawmakers legalized same-sex marriages, Swiss voters are deciding