Switzerland votes to criminalise ‘homophobia’

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Originally published in Lifesite News

The Swiss have voted by a large majority to make “homophobia” a criminal offence.

On Sunday, 63.1% of the voters who turned out for several popular initiative referendums agreed that “discrimination,” “hate speech” and other forms of public “insults” aimed at homosexuals because of their “sexual orientation” will be punishable by a fine and up to three years’ imprisonment.

During the run-up to Sunday’s vote, the Catholic hierarchy in Switzerland was mostly conspicuous by its absence from the debate.

With the new legislation, the aggravating circumstance of a victim’s homosexuality will be added to the original 1994 anti-discrimination and hate speech law in Switzerland’s penal code that already criminalised discrimination on the basis of race or religion. How it will be applied in practice will be determined by jurisprudence. To date, sanctions for discrimination and hate speech under the original law are usually limited to fines, only rarely moving up the scale to a suspended prison sentence.

However, the basis for public control of opinion on the question of homosexuality has now been laid and the door has been opened to thought police on the subject. Moreover, LGBT groups have already made clear that they plan to capitalise on the success of their agenda: they now want hate speech laws to “protect” trans people and “gender identity” and are already campaigning in that direction.

Sunday’s vote is also expected to reopen the issue of same-sex “marriage,” adoption and medically assisted procreation for lesbians in Switzerland, where to date, only civil unions are open to same-sex couples.

Among public acts and statements that from now on will be punishable by law, it is expected that calling homosexuality an “illness” or suggesting treatment for it will be considered as hate speech. It will also become illegal to refuse to serve clients because they are homosexuals, including in restaurants, swimming pools, guesthouses or hotels.

With a near two-thirds majority for the expansion of the Swiss anti-discrimination law to include homosexuals, lesbians and bisexuals, it could be argued that there is large popular support for the “LGB” community. But the turnout for the referendum did not exceed 41% of potential voters, which means only about one in four Swiss-registered voters actually approved the new measure. 59% had no opinion or didn’t care.

Voters against were even less numerous, though, indicating that the issue of homosexuality and LGBT rights is no longer seen as a political, societal or moral problem. The opening of civil unions to same-sex couples was already adopted by a clear majority in 2005 in Switzerland, with 58% of voters approving their creation in a popular referendum. Years of propaganda are evidently bearing fruit.

The expansion of the anti-discrimination law was at first brought to parliament by Swiss Socialist party member Mathias Reynard seven years ago, with the support of the left and the ecologists. In fact, both chambers adopted his proposed law in 2018 in Bern.

Two Conservative political formations, the UDC (Democratic Union of the Center) which is today Switzerland’s largest single party, and the UDF (Federal Democratic Union) then went into frontal opposition against the law, via a campaign to impose a popular vote. By April 2019, they had obtained the necessary 50,000 signatures required for the organization of a popular referendum.

Finally, their efforts were of no avail against the steamroller of political correctness, largely operated by the media, which are no less liberal in Switzerland than anywhere else.

Also, according to Mathias Reynard, this “evolution of society” toward more “tolerance and human rights” was obtained through “perseverance” on the part of “associations that worked heavily” in order to obtain their win. This victory was more visible in the French-speaking parts of Switzerland, which are also the more Catholic ones. Support for the new law was weaker in the German-speaking, widely Protestant cantons that are more attached to “freedom of expression,” according to local commentators. The cantons of Appenzell-Innerrhoden, Uri and Schwyz, all voted against the penalization of homophobia.

The Catholic Bishops’ Conference (CES) was remarkably cautious about the suggested new scope of Switzerland’s “anti-racist” laws. In a February 3 article, 24heures.ch noted that the Catholic Church had chosen to remain silent.

“The doctrine of the Catholic Church expresses itself with out exception against all calls to hate and discrimination against persons or groups,” was the comment placed on the Swiss Bishops’ Conference website. “It will be up to citizens to judge whether this principle is already sufficiently enshrined in the existing legislation or whether it should be extended,” it said.

According to Encarnación Berger-Lobato, spokeswoman of the CES, this was no lack of courage. “The Bishops’ Conference recognizes that homosexual persons need protection. But as the legal profession is not unanimous as to the fact whether a modification of the penal norm is the most useful and effective way to obtain that, it has decided not to express a position. This is not linked to a theological argumentation, but to a juridical one.”

Whatever that meant, it clearly indicated that the Church was in favor of “protecting” homosexuals from what they call hate speech and discrimination, even though both concepts are widely used in many countries not to prevent bodily harm or unjust differences of treatment, a protection to which all citizens are entitled as such, but in order to preclude any kind of criticism or negativity against groups that are presented as “oppressed minorities.” The ultimate implementation of such laws is usually “positive discrimination,” giving extra rights to the said “minorities.”

One exception among the Swiss bishops was Auxiliary Bishop Marian Eleganti of Coire. Before the vote, in an op-ed published in January, he prophesied: “Because of anti-discrimination laws, we are going to be reduced to silence and punished by decisions of the courts.”

Alexandre Curchod, the Swiss lawyer specializing in freedom of expression, downplayed the force of Switzerland’s future anti-hate speech law, recalling that its application will be subject to “strict criteria,” and that only public speech will be punishable. But this includes remarks on public social media.

Curchod also confirmed that under the new measures it will become a penal offence to refuse to accommodate a same-sex couple together in a hotel room. Calling homosexuality an “illness” would probably also be considered “hate-speech” because, he said, “they amount to attacking the dignity of homosexuals.” But these issues will be open to interpretation on the part of the courts.

Asked whether religious groups who say that homosexuality is a “sin” will be able to continue to do so freely, Curchod responded, “If they do that within a community, in a limited circle, they cannot be punished. However, if these comments are made publicly in order to be heard beyond the community, they could constitute an offence.”

Interestingly, some homosexuals did oppose the adoption of a specific anti-discrimination law in their favor.

Michael Frauchiger, co-president of a committee dubbed “Special rights NO!”, said, “I campaign for the acceptance and normalization of my sexuality. But for me, normalization also signifies not to demand special rights.” According to Frauchiger, these ultimately contribute to the “stigmatizing” of homosexuals.

Eric Bertinat, UDC, municipal councillor of Geneva and president of Perspectives catholiques, commented on radiolac.ch:

“Firstly, the new law is not justified because a penal law already exists. Secondly, a penal law is something serious. The simple fact of being accused makes that you really will be held accountable. And most importantly, it really gives a thought tribunal to a lobby, a group – and historically, that is not at all what we want in Switzerland. On the contrary, we always seek an overall vision. In this case, we are really giving arms to a group in order for it to defend its prerogatives. We already know in which direction they are heading: ‘marriage for all,’ adoption and many other demands which we, of course, shall be opposing.”

This last point was confirmed even before Sunday’s vote when an online survey by Tamedia between February 6 and February 8 revealed that 61% of Swiss citizens support “married for all,” including the right to adopt. 58% are even prepared to go further, favouring “complete” marriage rights, including access to medically assisted procreation with donor sperm for lesbian couples. Only sympathisers of the UDC said they were opposed to these “rights.”

Muriel Waeger, who co-directed the campaign for the anti-homophobia law, interpreted the survey and Sunday’s vote as a clear indication that “complete marriage for all” is underway and could be adopted by the parliament in Bern.

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