Switzerland voters approve measure to expand LGBT protections, reject affordable housing measure News
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Switzerland voters approve measure to expand LGBT protections, reject affordable housing measure

Switzerland held a referendum Sunday, approving a measure to expand protections for LBGTQ+ populations but rejecting one encouraging parties to offer more affordable housing for rent.

The initial results from the move to increase protections for LGBTQ+ populations came in part from a popular vote on a proposed amendment of the December 14, 2018, Criminal Code and Military Criminal Code that was passed by Parliament. It allowed voting on amending these codes to prohibit “discrimination and call to hate based on sexual orientation.” The referendum resulted in a 63.1 percent vote to tighten protections and 36.9 percent against. The votes were counted based on canton, and the results varied widely. The preliminary results show that Vaud was among those to have had the strongest support, having voted 80.2 percent yes, while Schwyz was far less supportive, having voted only 48.3 percent yes.

The amendment passed by Parliament extended an anti-racism law to include protections for LGBTQ+ populations. Opponents of the amendment collected petitions against the protections and triggered the referendum. However, having easily passed, the amendment will move forward. Specifically:

The new provision will prohibit public statements or actions that violate the human dignity of a person or group and which therefore incite a climate of hatred and endanger the peaceful coexistence of society. It will also be an offence to refuse to provide someone with a service that is publicly on offer because of their sexual orientation. The new provision will not apply to comments or conduct within a family or a group of friends. Objective public debate of the issue is also not affected and will continue to be allowed.

The referendum on affordable housing, however, failed. It specifically called for greater encouragement of affordable housing actions:

It proposes that across Switzerland at least ten per cent of newly built homes should belong to non-profit developers—normally these are housing cooperatives. In order to increase the non-profit construction of homes, cantons and communes should grant themselves a right of pre-emption, i.e. the right to buy a property before anyone else can make an offer.

This initiative had been rejected by both Parliament and the Federal Council already in October of 2016, and the popular vote came to a 42.9 percent yes and 57.1 percent no result. Assuming the popular vote resulted in a rejection, Parliament decided to allocate extra funding to nonprofit housing construction projects. This budgeting change will now presumably move forward.

Switzerland’s remaining referendums for the year, though still blank, are scheduled for May, September and November.