For the maintenance of marriage and the strengthening of the family

For the maintenance of marriage and the strengthening of the family

Cantonal People’s initative in the Canton of Zürich on 27 November 2016

Cantonal People’s Initiative «Protection of marriage»

by Dr iur Marianne Wüthrich

On 27 November, the voters of the Canton of Zurich will vote on a national initiative which will include the definition of marriage in a simple sentence in the canton’s constitution: “Marriage is the long-term and legally regulated life-partnership of man and woman.” What’s new, some citizens will wonder in amazement – that is well-known. You are absolutely right: In what an inverted world we live today! More than 5,000 Zurichers have found it necessary to give their signature that marriage in Zurich law is to be defined as it has been developed and transmitted over centuries in Christian-Western culture. The initiators are right: We are committed to the preservation of marriage and the strengthening of the family, as the basis of our society and as the core of the Swiss state model!

What persuaded the initiators to write in the Zurich constitution what a marriage is? Well, in the totally revised Constitution of 27 February 2005 we can read:

Forms of living together
Art. 13 Everyone has the right to freely choose the form of partnership life. In addition to marriage, the state can also recognize other forms of living together.

Marriage is thus mentioned only as a “form of living together” among others. The EDU (Swiss Federal Democratic Union) initiative would like to add to this article as a new paragraph 2: “Marriage is the long-term and legally regulated life-partnership of man and woman.” So to speak, as a reminder of what form of living together is the foundation and germ cell also of our society today.

Why is the People’s Initiative “Protection of marriage” necessary?

It is unnecessary, the Zurich Government Council says in the voting booklet. The right to marriage and family is protected by Article 14 of the Federal Constitution. (“The right to marry and to have a family is guaranteed.”) A strong minority of the Cantonal Council (around one third), who voted for the initiative, opposes this: “The Federal Constitution secures, in Article 14, the fundamental right to marriage but does not define what a marriage is, because this was unquestioned until now. [...] Marriage is intended to preserve the meaning which it has traditionally been accustomed to for centuries as a tested union between husband and wife.” (Voting booklet, p. 15/16)
It seems as if we citizens would almost have to justify why we want to preserve and strengthen the most normal and universally acknowledged institution of the Christian-Western order of values… Of course, the majority of the adult Swiss are married, as the initiators write. Naturally, most young people want to marry later and raise children. People want binding and responsible relationships with their fellow human beings and, in particular, with their spouse, which corresponds to human nature. In a time when media and so-called “experts” are confusing people’s minds, the Zurich people’s initiative “Protection of Marriage” is urgently needed.

Opposition to the dismantling of marriage

“Instead of fostering marriage and strengthening its framework conditions, politicians are concentrating on ideological motives for a nonsensical reorganization of the institution of marriage, which does not strengthen it but devaluates and weakens it.” (Committee of initiative in the voting booklet, p. 18)
The parliamentary initiative 13.468 “Marriage for All” of the Green-Liberal Party Group of the Federal Assembly which wants to enlarge the right to marriage in Article 14 of the Federal Constitution to a right to “legally regulated living communities” for couples “irrespective of their gender or sexual orientation” goes into this problematic direction. This proposal was only slightly accepted in the two parliamentary commissions for legal questions (on 2 February 2015 by the RK-N with 12 to 9 votes with 1 abstention, on 1 September 2015 by the RK-S with 7 to 5 votes with 1 abstention). The bill is currently being prepared by the Commission of the National Council and will be submitted first to the National Council for debate.
This sociopolitical discussion takes place at national level where it belongs to, according to the Zurich State / Gouverning Council. The definition of the concept of marriage which the initiators want must therefore be introduced at the federal level. (Voting booklet, p. 15/16)
In principle agree: We citizens must intervene in the coming debate in the National Council and Council of States and demand from our national representatives that the text of the cantonal initiative “Protection of marriage” is also inserted in Article 14 of the Federal Constitution instead of diluting the notion of marriage there.
The Zurich popular initiative “Schutz der Ehe” (Protection of Marriage) is, however, in no way opposed to the discussion at the federal level. Rather, the sovereign’s decision of the most populous canton in Switzerland plays an important role: A yes of the – mostly liberal – people of the Canton of Zurich would have some influence all over the country and, of course, the debate in the National Council and Council of States. As a sociopolitical sign against the confusion of minds and concepts, the Zurich voice is of great importance. In this sense also the initiative committee states: “The Zurich voters should proactively give a clear confession to the natural marriage of man and woman and thus as a sovereign be pioneer for the policy and the legislation.” (Voting booklet, p. 18)    •

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