Is Switzerland Ready For This?

The United States has yet to endorse equality for people based upon their sexual orientation. Some states and municipalities have done so, and polls show that a majority of Americans support this – but that obviously is not enough.

And now the Supreme Court is poised to rule on a case this Spring that will either support such equality – at least in the workplace – or endorse continued disparate treatment.


The Swiss, by a 63.1% to 36.9% margin, just voted to outlaw anti-gay discrimination (although not gender identity discrimination).

“Switzerland’s parliament in late 2018 approved expanding the country’s existing anti-discrimination law to make it illegal to publicly denigrate, discriminate or stir up hatred based on a person’s sexual orientation.”

And under this new law

“operators of restaurants, cinemas and public facilities such as swimming pools will not be able to turn people away because of their sexual orientation. The revision approved Sunday expands the scope of a law in force since 1995 that bans discrimination on the basis of race or religion. The law allows fines and up to three years in prison for violations. In its new form, it will cover sexual orientation but not gender identity.”

But have the Swiss bit off more then they can chew? Do they realize the legal thicket that they may be wading into?

For example, have they thought out – I mean really thought out – the very thorny issues which the top US Court has settled with respect to sexual orientation? That is, balancing these rights against the fundamental rights which the drafters memorialized in the original text of the Constitution of wedding cake bakers whose religion forbids them from baking for certain classes of people?

Tough issue.  You guys ready for this?

Or the religious rights of corporations, which the Founders enshrined in the Bill of Rights as worthy of constitutional protection (forgive me, Professor, but I keep forgetting — where in the “original text” is that right found? Is it somewhere near the slaves-as-fractional-people clause?).

Have the Swiss given these balancing-test issues any thought? 

Have they considered the rights of corporations in their head-long rush to make their society more just?

I can only shudder … let’s just hope that the Swiss wedding cake industry can stand this self-imposed stress.

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Richard Cohen

Richard B. Cohen is a partner in the New York City office of FisherBroyles, LLP, a national law firm. Richard Cohen has litigated and arbitrated complex corporate, commercial and employment disputes for more than 35 years, and is a trusted advisor to business owners and in-house counsel both in the United States and internationally. His clients have included Fortune 100 companies, domestic and foreign commercial and investment banks, Pacific-rim corporations and real estate development companies, as well as start-up businesses throughout the United States. Email Richard at [email protected]