A rainbow-colored flag reading "Yes, I will" and calling for "marriage for all" hangs in Bern, Switzerland, on Sunday as the Swiss electorate voted in approval of same-sex marriage. Photo by Peter Schneider/EPA-EFE
Sept. 26 (UPI) -- Swiss voters in a referendum on Sunday overwhelming approved of allowing same-sex couples to marry.
According to results from the Swiss federal chancellery, 64.1% of the Swiss electorate voted "yes" to marriage for all to 35.9% who voted "no" with 52.6% of eligible voters participating.
With this "historic vote," Switzerland has become the 29th country to recognize same-sex marriage, Amnesty International said.
"Finally, marriage -- and thus also the right to start a family -- will be open to all couples in Switzerland," Alexandra Karle, managing director of Amnesty International in Switzerland, said in a statement. "It thus sends a clear signal: same-sex loving people must be guaranteed the same rights and protection as everyone else."
Justice Minister Karin Keller-Sutter told reporters in the capital Bern that the decision will remove obstacles of inequality, Swissinfo.ch, which is run by the Swiss Broadcasting Corporation, reported. The decision will allow same-sex couples the same rights as heterosexual couples, including the ability to adopt and for lesbian couples to use sperm donations to have children.
Switzerland "would not impose on citizens how they should lead their lives," Keller-Sutter said. "Nothing has changed for male-female couples."
Only Italy, Greece and Liechtenstein remain as Western European nations that have not approved same-sex marriage with the Netherlands becoming the first in the world to legalize the union in September of 2000.
Swiss lawmakers in December had approved of the measure, but conservative parties triggered the referendum under the country's direct democracy that allows for one to be held if at least 50,000 citizens sign their names to it, Euronews reported.
Swiss Opponents to same-sex marriage had argued for the welfare of children and that "marriage between a man and a woman is a 'privilege' based on biology," according to the No Marriage for All website.
"'Marriage for all,' including sperm donation for lesbian couples, results in a legal absence of father and identity problems for the children concerned," the campaign argued. "Marriage and the family are closely linked, because children are naturally born only from the union of a man and a woman."
Olga Barabova, director of the marriage for all campaign, cheered the decision online, tweeting, "We did it. Equality wins."