Swiss voters have overwhelmingly backed a new measure that makes it illegal to discriminate against people because of their sexual orientation.
The country’s parliament will now expand existing anti-discrimination law, making it illegal to publicly denigrate, discriminate or stir up hatred based on a person’s sexual orientation.
Opponents of the move claimed it violated people’s right to freedom of opinion and gathered enough signatures to force a referendum on the issue.
Switzerland holds referendums several times a year that give voters a direct say in policy-making.
The revision approved on Sunday expands the scope of a law in force since 1995 that bans discrimination on the basis of race or religion.
The law allows fines and up to three years in prison for violations.
In its new form, it will cover sexual orientation but not gender identity.
Supporters said the addition is needed but it would not stifle legitimate public debate as long as the views expressed don’t stray into fomenting hate or discrimination.
Voters “are saying unmistakably that hatred and discrimination have no place in our free Switzerland”, Justice Minister Karin Keller-Sutter said.
Opponents argued protections against denigration were already enshrined in Swiss law.
The nationalist Swiss People’s Party, the biggest single party in Parliament, opposed the change and said the backers must now show it was “not a pretext for handing down politically motivated verdicts and silencing unwelcome opinions and voices”.
Ms Keller-Sutter said “freedom of expression remains guaranteed”.
She added that courts have been “restrained” in their application of the existing law and “anyone who remains respectful need have no fear of being convicted”.
Reference : Evening Standard