Swiss to decide fate of recent 'anti-homophobia' legislation

GENEVA — Swiss voters head to the polls on Sunday to decide whether to support a measure passed in parliament to make it illegal to discriminate against people based on their sexual orientation.

Polls show solid support for what's been billed as an “anti-homophobia” law, but opponents gathered enough signatures in a petition drive to put the issue on the ballot. Switzerland holds regular referendums that give voters a direct say in policy-making.

The referendum asks voters whether they support a legal change passed in December 2018 to strengthen the criminal and military justice codes against incitement of hatred and discrimination.

Opponents of those efforts insist such moves violate a right to freedom of opinion.

The measures, which expand on existing laws banning racial discrimination, would make it illegal to publicly denigrate, discriminate against or stir up hatred against people based on their sexual orientation.

Operators of restaurants, cinemas and public facilities like swimming pools, for example, would not be able to discriminate against anyone based on their sexual orientation if the measure passes.

Backers of a small political party that claims Christian values and is behind the petition argue that the parliamentary efforts would be “freedom-killing,” and insist that protections against denigration are already enshrined in Swiss law.

Supporters of the parliamentary moves say the enhancements to Swiss anti-racism laws are needed and will not prevent legitimate public debate — as long as it doesn't stray into fomenting hate or discrimination.

Green, left-leaning and centrist parties support the enhanced protections, while the populist, right-wing Swiss People's Party — the largest single faction in parliament — opposes them.

Results are expected around midday Sunday, after polls close. Most voters have already cast ballots through the mail.

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