Partners Task Force for Gay & Lesbian Couples
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Registered Partnership
The Swiss Approach
© February 18, 2010, Demian

The Swiss registration status was established in 2005. As of January 1, 2007, same-sex couples are able to register under the “Eingetragene Partnerschaft” law.

By offering a domestic partnership registration status, instead of legal marriage, the Swiss have created an apartheid, with one set of laws pertaining to opposite-sex couples, and another for same-sex couples. [See Marrying Apartheid]

Previous Support for Same-sex Couples

  • In August 1994, the Swiss Federated Railways (Switzerland) announced reduced fares, and spouse passes for same-sex partners who live together.
  • Switzerland’s Justice Minister Ruth Metzler announced, on October 25, 2000, that the Government has directed her to draft legislation to create registered partnerships for gay and lesbian couples with many of the benefits of marriage. This follows consultation with local and regional governments, as well as with non-governmental organizations.
    The Justice Ministry is expected to write a bill that provides greater equality in inheritance, taxation, government benefits, and immigration. However, the Federal Council opposes adoption rights for same-sex couples and fertility treatment for lesbians. The bill did not get introduced in the Parliament in 2001 as was expected.
  • Geneva offered a domestic partner registration process, in May 2001. Same-and opposite-sex cohabiting couples are offered the same status as legally married couples, except for state run functions such as taxes and social security benefits.
    By February 2005, 215 same-sex and 54 opposite-sex couples took advantage of the law; and 19 couples ended their partnership.
  • Zurich residents voted 63-37 to offer benefits to same-sex couples in the areas of tax, inheritance, and social security. The September 2002 law required both partners to live in Zurich canton, and, six months in advance, formerly commit to cohabiting and providing mutual support and aid.

    Between July 2003 and the end of 2004, 383 same-sex couples registered.

  • In July 2004, the canton of Neuchâtel passed a law recognizing unmarried couples. 35 opposite-sex, and 21 same-sex couples, registered by February 2005.
  • The Swiss the governing cabinet proposed a law, on November 28, 2002, that would allow same-sex couples to enjoy civil recognition “like married couples.” In announcing the proposal of the seven-member cabinet, Justice Minister Ruth Metzler said she regarded the proposal as “a day of tolerance and a step toward a modern and open Switzerland.”
  • In a June 2005 referendum, Swiss voters approved a law allowing same-sex couples to register their partnerships. The partnerships will be granted the same legal rights as married couples in the areas of pensions, inheritance and taxes. Same-sex partners will not, however, be allowed to adopt children or have access to fertility treatment.
    The referendum was approved by 58 percent of voters. Previously registered partnerships for same-sex couples existed at a regional level in the cantons of Zurich, Geneva and Neuchâtel. Switzerland was the first nation to pass a same-sex union law by referendum.
Registration Rights
  • Inheritance
  • Taxation
  • Insurance
  • Health Care
  • Pension
  • Tax Rights and Obligations
  • Social Security
  • Shared Home or Apartment Possession
  • Foreign Partners Receive Residency, NOT Naturalization

While this registration status offers an improved range of protections for same-sex couples who live in Switzerland, it contains many gaps.

NOT Provided by Registration
  • Naturalization (which is made easier with legal marriage)
  • Adoption
  • Fertility Treatment
  • Taking the Same Name (they may hyphenate or share a surname for day-to-day affairs, however, it will not be recorded in the register of birth, marriage and death)
  • Foreign Same-sex Marriages are Acknowledged as registered partnerships, NOT Legal Marriage

Partnership are obtained from a Civil Registrar’s Office.

Registration Procedure
  • Couples must be 18 or older (passport or identity card)
  • Not already married
  • Not already registered partners
  • Not be a parent [ed.: this is too odd, can any one verify?]
  • Provide a civil identity document (certificat individuel d’état civil), proving each person free to register (obtained from Civil Registrar’s office in town of origin)
  • One of the partners must be Swiss, or be a Swiss resident
  • Proof of address (obtained from local Cantonal Population Office)
  • Foreigners provide a birth certificate

Partnerships can only be dissolved by a court.

Un-Registration Procedure
  • By the court at the common statement of the partners
  • By the death of one of the partners
  • At the request of one of the partners (after one year living separately)

Switzerland’s Web site about the registration:
      Federal Office of Justice: Registered Partnerships

Registered partnership

    [From the Swiss government’s Web site document:

Act on registered partnerships between persons of the same sex (Partnership Act)
Entry into force: 1 January 2007

A registered partnership commits partners of the same sex to lead life as a couple and to assume joint responsibilities. Partners must assist and respect each other. They must each contribute, as far as they are able, to the support of their life together.

To form a registered partnership, partners must meet the following legal conditions:

  • Partners must be over the age of 18 years and capable of proper judgement;
  • They must not already be married or bound by a registered partnership;
  • Persons who are legally incapable must have the consent of their legal representative;
  • Partners must not be directly related. A person cannot form a partnership with his/her brother or sister, father or mother or a grand-parent, whether they are related by blood or by adoption.
  • One of the two partners must hold Swiss nationality or be resident in Switzerland.
Persons who are not resident in Switzerland and who do not hold Swiss nationality may not form a partnership in Switzerland.

Preparatory procedure
The partners must go in person to the registry office covering the residence of one of them and must produce the following documents:

Swiss nationals:
A personal civil status certificate and a certificate of residence.

Foreign nationals:
A certificate of residence and documents proving their birth, sex, surname, parentage, civil status and nationality.

Partners previously married or bound by a registered partnership:
Confirmation of the dissolution of the marriage or registered partnership.

The application form to register a partnership can be requested from the relevant registry office.

Having completed this form and produced the necessary documents, the partners must also personally declare to the registrar that they meet all the legal conditions.

The registrar will examine the application and inform the partners whether the partnership can be registered. The details of the registration will be decided in agreement with the registry office.

Registration must occur within three months of notification of the decision that the preparatory procedure has been successfully completed.

Swiss nationals abroad may file their application through the relevant diplomatic or consular representation. Formation of the partnership
The two partners will make a declaration before the registrar that they wish to form a partnership. The registrar will get them to sign the partnership document and will then issue them with a partnership certificate.

The registry office charges a fee for registering the partnership (preparation and formation of the partnership) and for the documents issued.

Recognition of homosexual partnerships formed abroad
A partnership which has been duly formed abroad will be recognised in Switzerland if it complies with Swiss legal principles.

The partnership will be recorded in the “Infostar” civil status register if one of the partners holds Swiss nationality or is resident in Switzerland. The application for recognition must be filed with the Swiss representation (embassy or consulate) together with the documents on the registered partnership.

The Swiss representation will verify the accuracy of the documents, legalise these and then translate them, if necessary, into an official language of Switzerland (in return for payment of a fee). The documents will then be sent to the relevant cantonal civil status supervisory authority. The supervisory authority of the canton of origin will be responsible for Swiss nationals abroad whereas, for foreign nationals resident in Switzerland, recognition will be decided by the civil status supervisory authority of the canton of residence.

The cantonal supervisory authority will decide whether the partnership can be recognised. If the conditions are met, it will order the partnership to be recorded in the registers. Based on this decision, the partnership formed abroad may therefore be recorded in the “Infostar” civil status register.

A marriage celebrated abroad between persons of the same sex will be recognised in Switzerland as a registered partnership.

New civil status
Civil status must always be indicated on official forms and in correspondence with the authorities. The official term is “bound by a registered partnership” or “partnership dissolved” after the legal dissolution of the partnership or the death of a partner.

Joint home
The two partners undertake, as a result of registering the partnership, to lead life as a couple. They will decide together whether they want to live in a joint home or in two or more apartments. One partner cannot relinquish or cancel the lease for the joint apartment without the express consent of the other partner.

Effects of the registered partnership
Personal effects
a) Surname
The registered partnership will have no effect on the surname of the partners or on their citizenship.

However, to indicate their partnership, partners do have the option of using a combined surname made up of their two hyphenated surnames. The combined surname may be used in daily life and may appear, on request, in their passports or identity cards.

Foreign partners can declare to the registrar that they want their surname to be governed by their national law (Article 37(2) of the Federal Act on Private International Law: LDIP RS 2911). In some countries (e.g. Germany, Scandinavian countries), the national law allows partners to bear a joint surname.

b) Nationality
As regards the foreign partner acquiring Swiss nationality, the law does not allow for Swiss naturalisation to be obtained in a simplified manner as is the case with a foreign spouse of a Swiss national.

Property effects of the partnership
Each partner will own his/her own property and will be solely responsible for his/her debts. This system corresponds to the system of separation of property under matrimonial law. Each partner is obliged, if requested, to inform the other partner about his/her income, property and debts. At the request of one partner, the courts may compel the other partner or third parties to provide appropriate information and to produce the necessary documents.

If the partnership is dissolved, the partners may conclude a special agreement and specify, for example, that the property will be shared according to the provisions of matrimonial law on participation in the property acquired after marriage. This type of agreement will be valid only if drawn up as an officially recorded document by an authorised person (notary).

Each partner may have an officially recorded inventory drawn up of the respective property, to be produced as evidence.

In the areas of tax law and inheritance law, registered partners will be treated like married couples. If one of the partners dies, the surviving partner will be regarded as a widow/widower in terms of entitlement to old-age and survivors’ pensions (rente AVS) and additional work pensions (prévoyance professionnelle).

The lessor of the joint home must be informed of the partnership’s registration because cancellation of the lease by the lessor is valid only if sent separately to each of the two partners.

Partnership and children
Adoption of a child and recourse to artificial reproduction are prohibited for persons bound by a registered partnership. Adoption of the partner’s child is also not permitted.

Where a partner has children, the other partner must duly assist his/her partner in fulfilling the support obligation and in exercising parental authority and must represent his/her partner when circumstances require this (for example in the event of illness or absence).

Dissolution of the partnership
The two partners may together file a request for dissolution of the partnership with the courts. Each partner may also ask the courts to dissolve the partnership if the couple has lived separately for at least one year.

The additional work pension benefits (prévoyance professionnelle) will be shared as in the case of a divorce. After the registered partnership has been dissolved, each partner will in principle be responsible for supporting himself/herself. However, where one person has, due to the distribution of tasks during the registered partnership, limited his/her paid work or has not worked, he/she may request reasonable support contributions from his/her partner until he/she can again obtain work allowing him/her to support himself/herself.

      [ 1 Translator’s note: LDIP = loi fédérale sur le droit international privé; RS = Recueil Suisse (Swiss gazette). ]

Governments that offer Full Legal Marriage

    Netherlands (2001)
    Belgium (2003)
    Canada (2005)
    Spain (2005)
    South Africa (2005)
    Norway (2009)
    Sweden (2009)
    Iceland (2010)
    Argentina (2010)
    Portugal (2010)
    Denmark (2012)
    France (2013)
    New Zealand (2013)
    Brazil (2013)
    Uruguay (2013)
    New Zealand (2013)
    United Kingdom
      (England, Wales, Scotland) (2013)
    Luxembourg (2014)
    Finland (2014)
    Ireland (2015)
    United States (2015)
    Colombia (2016)
    Germany (2017)
    Taiwan (2017)
    Malta (2017)
US States & Territories

    Massachusetts (2004)
    California (2008)
    Connecticut (2008)
    Iowa (2009)
    Vermont (2009)
    New Hampshire (2009)
    District of Columbia (2009)
    New York (2011)
    Maine (2012)
    Washington (2012)
    Maryland (2013)
    Rhode Island (2013)
    Delaware (2013)
    Minnesota (2013)
    Illinois (2013)
    Utah (2013)
    New Jersey (2013)
    Hawaii (2013)
    New Mexico (2013)
    Michigan (2014) - stayed pending legal challenge
    Oregon (2014)
    Wisconsin (2014)

    Arkansas (2014) - stayed pending legal challenge
    Pennsylvania (2014)
    Indiana (2014)
    Nevada (2014)
    Virginia (2014)
    Oklahoma (2014)
    Idaho (2014)
    West Virginia (2014)
    Alaska (2014)
    Arizona (2014)
    Wyoming (2014)
    Kansas (2014) - stayed pending legal challenge
    Florida (2014)
    Colorado (2014)
    North Carolina (2014)
    South Carolina (2014)
    Montana (2014)
    Alabama (2015)
    U.S. Supreme Court (June 26, 2015):
      Ruling: All U.S. States must now
      allow same-sex couples the
      freedom of legal marriage.
Native American Tribes

    Coquille Tribe, Oregon (2009)
    Mashantucket Pequot, Connecticut (2011)
    Suquamish Tribe, Washington (2011)
    Confederated Tribes of the Colville Reservation, Washington (2013)
    Leech Lake Band of Ojibwe, Minnesota (2013)
    Little Traverse Bay Bands of Odawa Indians, Michigan (2013)
    Pokagon Band of Potawatomi Indians, Michigan (2013)
    Santa Ysabel Tribe, California (2013)
    Confederated Tribes of the Colville Nation, Washington (2013)
    Cheyenne, Oklahoma (2013)
    Arapaho, Oklahoma (2013)
    Leech Lake Tribal Court, Minnesota (2013)
    Puyallup Tribe, Washington (2914)
    Wind River Indian Reservation, Wyoming (2014)
    Keweenaw Bay Indian Community, Michigan, (2014)
    Colville Confederated Tribes, Washington (2014)
    Central Council of Tlingit, Alaska (2015)
    Haida Indian Tribes, Alaska (2015)

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