February 10, 2020

Switzerland votes in favor of banning discrimination against gay people

Switzerland votes in favor of banning discrimination against gay people

On Sunday Switzerland voted to ban homophobic discrimination. The referendum will result in legislation that will outlaw hate speech and discrimination on the grounds of sexual orientation, and it will include jail terms of up to three years. The law covers publicly discriminating against a person for being gay, hateful text, speech, images or gestures towards a gay person, and operators of public facilities discriminating against gay people.

IZA World of Labor author Nick Drydakis has discovered that sexual orientation seems to affect job access and satisfaction, earning prospects, and interaction with colleagues. In his article, he notes that: “Studies from countries with laws against discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation suggest that gay and lesbian employees report more incidents of harassment and are more likely to report experiencing unfair treatment in the labor market than are heterosexual employees.”

“Despite anti-discrimination laws in some countries, gay and lesbian employees encounter serious job market barriers. […] Government can help through campaigns promoting respect and equality of treatment in the workplace and by publishing annual data on progress toward equality objectives. Firms should evaluate recruitment and promotion policies to ensure equality of opportunity and should address incidents of harassment,” Drydakis adds.

However, the new law in Switzerland will not penalize for homophobic comments made in a family environment or among friends. It also does not outlaw discrimination based on gender identity, public debate on discrimination and jokes about the gay community. Opponents of the new law also believe that it could stifle free speech. The right-wing Swiss People's Party (SVP), for instance, opposed the law. Eric Bertinat, lawmaker from the SVP party believes that the law was “part of an LGBT plan to slowly move towards same-sex marriage and medically assisted reproduction” for gay couples.

Whilst Marc Frueh, head of the Federal Democratic Union of Switzerland (EDU), believes it is a “censorship law”, the green left-leaning and centrist parties all support the law. Mathias Reynard, a politician from the Social Democratic Party described Sunday as “a historic day”. “It gives a signal which is magnificent for everyone and for anyone who has been a victim of discrimination,” he added.

Read Nick Drydakis’ article Sexual orientation and labor market outcomes.