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Same-sex marriage just became legal in Switzerland. This couple were among first to benefit

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By Aleksandar Brezar  & Xavier de Lagausie
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Laure and Aline, one of Switzerland's many same-sex couples getting married on 1 July 2022
Laure and Aline, one of Switzerland's many same-sex couples getting married on 1 July 2022   -   Copyright  Personal archive

This couple were among the first to tie the knot on Friday morning when same-sex marriage became legal in Switzerland.

Geneva natives Laure and Aline have been waiting for this day ever since they met 21 years ago.

"We sent out the invitations at the last minute," Laure told Euronews. "People sometimes have trouble making themselves available on a Friday at 11 am. 

The ceremony which took place in the Palais Eynard in Geneva was presided over by Marie Barbey-Chappius, the city's mayor who insisted on officiating in person at the ceremony.

“I now have the great pleasure of announcing that you are officially married,” she told the couple.

The brides embraced as the invited guests applauded.

“It’s very moving. It’s a moment that is very strong and that sends a very strong message to society: that of being free to love and be loved,” Barbey-Chappius told the AFP news agency.

“The symbolism was particularly strong and the emotion too, naturally,” she said.

New law means more security for families and children

After Laure and Aline met, the two quickly entered into a civil partnership in Geneva -- the first canton or region in the country to grant same-sex couples some of the rights and protections of married couples.

The local law, however, did not grant them access to tax benefits or joint health insurance, which were all defined by federal laws at the time.

In 2014, Laure and Aline became registered partners -- a Swiss legal provision that allows for two people of the same sex to unite in what is an upgrade on civil partnerships, attaining similar rights to those of married couples.

Yet, after they had a child through a medically assisted pregnancy, the two realised that the law had a few key differences, after all.

Even though Laure gave birth to their son, now four, Aline had to jump through a series of hoops and wait for years to be recognised as his other parent.

"I'm the biological mother," Laure explained, "so Aline had no rights in relation to him."

"So then you have to wait until the child has lived together with you as the couple for a year. And then you have to go through the adoption process, and that takes about two years." 

"And now, legally, we are the two recognised parents, his mothers," she said.

The new law will put same-sex couples on more of an equal footing with their heterosexual peers, ensuring that they can apply for joint adoption of children, inherit a deceased partner's pension, or have access to the citizenship process in case one is not a Swiss national.

"For us, there are a lot of things that give us more security in relation to the family and the children," Laure said. 

"The right to adoption is also important. It's true that it doesn't concern us directly, as we're not going to adopt, but it's something important for future couples who are going to get married."

Same-sex marriage is not without its opponents

Switzerland is one of the last countries in western Europe to allow same-sex marriage.

Hundreds of couples throughout Switzerland will transform their registered partnership into a marriage in the next few weeks.

Zurich is booked out, with 26 same-sex couples due to marry on 1 July.

And after Friday, some might even get a chance to have a religious ceremony. Both protestant and reformist churches supported same-sex marriage, with the former stating in 2019 that it would propose a provision in its regulations allowing individual pastors to decide to marry same-sex couples at their church.

The law, however, was not without its opponents. The country's Christian Democrats pushed for a referendum in 2016 that would define marriage as "durable cohabitation between a man and a woman", in an attempt to make same-sex weddings illegal under the federal constitution.

The referendum, needing a simple majority, was rejected by the slimmest of margins of 0.8% of voters, or just 54,979 votes.

After a parliamentary initiative to recognise same-sex marriage was passed in the country's National Council in December 2020, the right-wing Federal Democratic Union used the provision of the Swiss law allowing them to call for another referendum if they collected more than 50,000 signatures.

However, a referendum in 2021 saw 61.4% of voters and all of the country's 26 cantons back same-sex marriage becoming legal.

Laure and Aline had not initially intended to marry on 1 July. But they decided to bring their nuptials forward after seeing a call by an association for LGBTQ+ rights, Dialogai, who were looking for couples to tie the knot on the first day same-sex marriage became legal. 

The organisation helped them with the paperwork, making sure they filed for the ceremony with the register office, and the couple even met with Mayor Barbey-Chappius, Laure explained.

They did not expect the resulting media attention, however, but Laure believes a little extra pressure over the ceremony is normal.

"We're not used to it at all, it puts a little pressure. But that doesn't stop us from being very happy with what we're doing and having this visibility."