The Federation of Swiss Protestant Churches, a Reformed association uniting 26 member churches and nearly 1,000 congregations, voted during a nationwide assembly this week to allow same-sex marriages.
The federation’s assembly of delegates voted 46 to 11 this week in support of “marriage for all” proposals introduced earlier this year, according to a press release.
“The delegates recommend that the member churches presuppose the opening of marriage for same-sex couples at civil law level, as well as the possibly new civil law concept of marriage for the church wedding,” the release explains.
The delegates also voted in favor of recommending that member churches respect the freedom of conscience of pastors and allow individual pastors to make their own decisions whether or not they will officiate same-sex weddings.
This week’s vote comes after the Council of the Federation of Swiss Protestant Churches in August endorsed the proposal to open up civil marriages to same-sex couples and treat them with the “same liturgical celebration” used in the weddings of heterosexual couples.
“The member churches gathered together in the Federation of Swiss Protestant Churches agree that the fullness of the divine act of creation is reflected in the variety of sexual orientations,” a draft of the legislation reads.
In June, the federation’s assembly of delegates adopted an official position stating that “God wants us the way we were created.”
“We cannot choose our sexual orientation,” the assembly’s position statement reads. “We see it as an expression of created abundance.”
Although the assembly voted overwhelmingly in favor of affirming same-sex marriages, the vote followed a lively debate, according to Livenet.ch.
The Swiss news outlet reports that some delegates wanted to leave the decision to recognize same-sex marriages up to local parishes while others wanted to postpone the vote on the issue altogether.
The vote of affirmation by the federation’s delegates was criticized by Peter Schneeberger, president of the Association VFG Free Churches Switzerland.
Schneeberger contended that the position adopted by the federation falls outside the norm of other prominent church bodies around the world including the Catholic Church and the Orthodox Church.
"Marriage between men and women, because of their potential, has a special status in our view and is based on God's order of creation,” Schneeberger told Livenet.ch.
At the political level, a debate on the issue will also be had in Swiss Parliament.
Switzerland has allowed same-sex couples to attain registered partnerships since 2007 but a bill to legalize same-sex marriage in Switzerland was finalized earlier this year.
According to Swissinfo.ch, most political parties in Switzerland are in favor of legalizing same-sex marriage except for the right-wing Swiss People’s Party and the more centrist Protestant Party.
The bill is set to be discussed in 2020.
Church bodies around the world have struggled with the same-sex marriage question in recent years.
Earlier this year, United Methodist Church delegates voted to support a plan to uphold the denomination's longstanding definition as marriage being a union between one man and one woman.