More than 63 percent of voters accepted on Sunday the proposal to broaden Switzerland’s current anti-racism legislation to encompass sexual orientation.
However, the proposed law for more affordable housing was defeated, with 57.1 percent votes cast against it.
With the acceptance of the anti-homophobia legislation, Switzerland will join a handful of other European nations where public incitement to hatred, discrimination, and violence on the basis of sexual orientation is illegal.
The proposal’s supporters welcomed the new law.
“The result sends a strong sign of acceptance for lesbians, gays and bisexuals”, the gay rights organisation Pink Cross said in a statement.
It added that from now on, “the LGBTI community will use this momentum to achieve the consistent implementation of the penal code and to enforce marriage equality”.
While civil unions between gay couples are legal in Switzerland, marriage is not. But the government has recently announced its intention to “rapidly” legalise same-sex marriage, as is the case in some other European countries.
“With this very clear result, the Swiss population confirms that the protection of minorities against hate and discrimination is important”, noted Salome Zimmermann, co-president of the Swiss lesbian organization LOS.
MP Mathias Reynard, who spearheaded the anti-homophobia initiative, told Swiss television RTS that the ‘yes’ vote means “much more openness and tolerance in the Swiss society”.
And the government, which backed the proposal, is also happy with the referendum’s outcome.
“It sends a message that in Switzerland discrimination is not tolerated”, Justice Minister Karin Keller-Sutter said at a news conference.
But not everyone was pleased with the referendum’s result.
Opponents of the measure argued throughout the campaign that anti-homophobia law would violate the constitutional right to free speech.
“We will keep a close eye on the implementation of the law and want to make sure that the freedom of expression remains guaranteed”, MP David Trachsel told Swiss television SRF.