The European nation of Switzerland has voted in favour of a new law that makes any public expressions of homophobia illegal.
Under the new provision, sexual orientation has been added to existing legislation that outlaws discrimination based on race, ethnic origin or religion.
As a result, people who “publicly degrade or discriminate” against others on the basis of sexual orientation could now face jail time of up to three years.
The changes to the legislation follow a referendum in Switzerland on the matter, where 63.1% of those eligible voting for its implementation.
The referendum would not have been needed as the government had initially passed legislation banning sexual orientation discrimination in 2018, however, opponents of the legislation rallied together and collected the required 70,000 signatures to force a referendum on the law.
“With the adoption of the extension of the anti-discrimination penalty, homophobic hatred and discrimination against lesbians, gays and bisexuals will be punished,” said Swiss LGBTQ group, Pink Cross.
“This is a strong sign against homophobia and shows that a large majority of the Swiss population does not tolerate hate.”
The new law also bans the refusal to provide a service that is intended to be provided to the general public to someone on the basis of their sexual orientation. The provision does not restrict the right of people to express their views in private to friends and family.
It is reported that in the lead-up to the vote, activists distributed hundreds of thousands of flyers, stickers and buttons across the country, along with an estimated 20,000 rainbow flags being hung on windows and balconies to show support for the law.
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