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social sciences

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In August 1994, the Swiss Federated Railways announced reduced fares, and spouse passes for same-sex partners who live together.

While many European countries established registered partnerships and civil unions for same-sex couples, beginning with Denmark in 1989, Switzerland lagged behind.

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In 2000 the Swiss government authorized Justice Minister Ruth Metzler to draft a registered-partnership bill for same-sex couples. The bill was introduced into Parliament in 2001.

In May 2001, the canton of Geneva offered a domestic partner registration process or PACS (Pacte civil de solidarité). Unmarried, cohabitating couples, whether same-sex or opposite-sex, were granted similar rights, responsibilities, and protections to those enjoyed by legally married couples, with the exception of rights governed by federal law. By February 2005, 215 same-sex and 54 opposite-sex couples in Geneva took advantage of the law.

The canton of Zurich passed a same-sex partnership law in September 2002, the first in the world to be ratified by a popular referendum. Zurich's law went further than Geneva's partnership registration, offering benefits to same-sex couples in the areas of taxation, inheritance, and social security. The Zurich law, however, required couples to live together for six months in advance of registering. Within one year, 383 same-sex Zurich couples had registered their partnerships.

The canton of Neuchâtel followed suit in July 2004, passing a law legally recognizing unmarried, cohabiting couples. By February 2005, 35 opposite-sex and 21 same-sex couples in Neuchâtel had registered.

In 2004 the Swiss Parliament passed legislation to create a nationwide civil union registry and grant limited rights to same-sex couples--primarily in the areas of pensions, inheritance, and taxes. But opponents, headed by the Federal Democratic Union, a conservative religious party, collected enough signatures to force a referendum on the issue.

This action led to the first occasion in Europe where a nation's voters were asked to decide if gay and lesbian couples should have equal legal rights as married couples. Elsewhere in Europe the decision of how to recognize gay and lesbian partnerships had been decided by governments.

The Swiss government and most political parties supported the measure, as did the Federation of Protestant Churches. Predictably, the Roman Catholic Church opposed it.

On June 5, 2005, Swiss voters approved, by a 58 percent majority, the nationwide registered partnership law. It grants same-sex couples the same rights and protections as legally married couples, including next of kin status, taxation, and social security benefits.

Exceptions are made in regards to adoption rights, access to fertility treatments, and the assumption of the same surname. Additionally, while foreign partners receive residency, a foreign member of a registered partnership does not have the right to a Swiss passport or expedited naturalization.

Partnerships can only be dissolved by a court.

The Swiss Registered Partnership law went into effect on January 1, 2007.

Significant Swiss GLBTQ Cultural Figures

One of the first figures in early Swiss glbtq history is the Swiss-born draftsman and writer painter Henry Fuseli (1741-1825), who, however, spent most of his life in England. Born Johann Heinrich Füssli on February 6, 1741 in Zurich, the artist adopted an anglicized version of his name when he settled permanently in England in 1764. He is best-known for the painting The Nightmare, a memorable image of a woman in the throes of a violently erotic dream, but he also produced paintings and drawings of both heterosexual and homosexual subjects.

Another prominent individual in early Swiss gay history is the writer and government official Charles-Victor de Bonstetten (1745-1832). It has long been speculated that Bonstetten, during his early twenties, was the object of affection of the homosexual English poet Thomas Gray (1716-1771).

In December 1769, the young Swiss aristocrat, living in London to improve his English, was introduced to the much older Gray. Shortly after this introduction, Bonstetten moved with Gray to Pembroke Hall, Cambridge, where he lived close to Gray's lodgings and spent his evenings in Gray's rooms. In a January 1770 letter to his confidante, Rev. Norton Nicholls, Gray wrote: "I never saw such a boy: our breed is not made on this model."

Bonstetten was obliged to return to Switzerland at the end of three months, but the two men were known to have corresponded regularly until Gray's death in 1771, although few of Bonstetten's letters have survived.

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