SWITZERLAND: Hate Speech Bill Passes

Via Gay Star News:

Switzerland has voted for a law to protect LGBTI people from discrimination. The parliament voted with 103 in favor, 73 against and nine abstentions to ensure nobody is targeted with hate speech and discrimination on the basis of their sexual or gender identity. It was an amendment to a law that already protected people of different races or faiths. “It’s nice to live in a country that recognizes diversity and supports the same equal protection for everyone.” according to Bastian Baumann, Secretary-General of Pink Cross. Secretary General of The Swiss Lesbian Organization, Barbara Lanthemann, added: “The law is not only important for LGBT organizations; it also improves the daily life of lesbians and gays.”

Last month the lower chamber of the Swiss Parliament approved a same-sex marriage bill. Should it be approved by the upper chamber, its enactment would require passage via a national referendum. In 1999 Switzerland banned anti-LGBT discrimination in business and employment. Partnership rights were recognized in 2007. In 2001 Swiss voters overwhelming rejected a campaign to join the European Union.

  • Herald

    So wonderful to see progress happening in many places these days. Now for the US to catch up.

    This also reminds me of how far we still have to go and how many places people live every day under incredible risk.

    • Peter Wde

      Quite the reverse. Time for the rest of the world to get with the program and protect freedom of expression as it is here in the US.

      Three cheers for the First Amendment.

      • Daniel

        Riiiiiiight. The US is right and the stupid rest of the world is wrong. Just ask an American.

        • Peter Wde

          Always willing to be of assistance, you just need to ask.

      • Archie (Frae Scotland)

        O wad some Pow’r the giftie gie us
        To see oursels as ithers see us!

    • Merv99

      The US is already ahead of Switzerland on marriage equality, and is likely to have full marriage equality before Switzerland.

  • Blake Jordan

    Does anyone here know whether any of the countries that have marriage equality now, did not first have anti-discrimination / public accommodation laws that included LGBTs?

    Because I find it weird that soon the entire USA will have marriage equality, but you can still be fired, denied services, etcetera in 29 (?) states for being LGBT…

    • Robert W. Pierce

      Here in the UK, we’ve had a non-discrimination law against LGBT people in all areas of public life since 2010 called The Equalities Act. We had Civil Partnerships legislation passed in 2004 and marriage equality passed in 2013. I believe other countries have had similar laws in place prior to SSM.

      • Blake Jordan

        I know here in South Africa we got “the protections”, sexual orientation and gender identity are specifically mentioned in our constitution, before we got marriage and adoption rights.

    • lukefromcanada

      I know Canada does as well, but not sure if its at the federal or just provincial level or both

      • Claude Jacques Bonhomme

        In Quebec, gay rights have been explicit in the Charter of Rights since 1978.

        In the Canadian Charter of Rights, gay rights are not explicitly spelled out, but the Supreme Court has established through jurisprudence that we are covered.

        Not sure about the other provinces and territories.

    • Helen in Ireland

      Ireland first put non-discrimination laws in place for LGBT civil servants in 1988, and additional laws in 1998 which led to the national Equal Status Act in 2000. However there is a big exemption in the area of employment (section 37) where a religious organisations, medical institution or educational institution can fire an employee if they feel that the behaviour of the employee impinges on the religious ethos. Over 90% of our schools still work under religious patronage as do some of our hospitals and LGBT teachers especially feel vulnerable.

  • Gene

    this is wonderful. Hopefully it will pass both houses. I wonder about the referendum though. The Swiss, mainly the Catholic half of the country, can still be very conservative. Staying out of the EU looks brilliant in hindsight, but, not every referendum they are presented with goes the way of justice/progressive values….still, its progress and we can hope for the best!

    • 10:30

      Actually, it’s the French speakers (the Catholics in western Switzerland) who consistently vote the most liberally. It is the Reformed/Protestant German speakers who are insanely conservative. But then again, not all the German-speaking cantons are Protestant, and not all the Francophones are Catholic. Perhaps culture is not so easy to boil down to just religion, no?

    • adamsmo05

      Polls show the Swiss are most definitely not socially conservative in this area. Though certainly not as liberal as, say, the Irish…

  • Gordon Werner

    What is the “I” in LGBTI stand for?

    • BobSF_94117

      Intersex, I assume.

      • Blake Jordan

        That would be my guess to…

      • Gordon Werner

        Ahh. Thanx.

    • Polterguest

      Who knows anymore.

    • Merv99


      • BlueberriesForMe

        Interesting. Inimitable.

  • Brian Westley

    Switzerland should lose the hate speech laws, though; they criminalize speech, and are easily abused by whatever government is currently in power.

    • Blake Jordan

      Which of the countries that currently have hate speech laws, have freedom of speech issues?

      • Brian Westley

        You mean I can only cite things that have actually occurred, and not speculate on what would happen if, say, a rightwing Christian party got into power and started prosecuting anyone who ever said anything “hateful” (whatever that means — tagging a blog post under “crackpots”, maybe) about Christians?

        OK, how about a $11,000+ fine for denying the Armenian genocide? Switzerland.

        PS: I would call ANY country with hate speech laws to have freedom of speech issues, for the simple reason that you can never know if what you are about to say is illegal. In the US, such a law, even if it got past the first amendment, would probably be considered unconstitutionally vague.

        • another_steve

          Here in the U.S., Brian, there is a real danger that in our Presidential election next year, the American people will vote in a theofascist President. A very real danger. Plus, a theofascist Congress that would be all too willing to rewrite the meaning of “hate speech.”

          If that happens, the host of this blog — our beloved Joe — could easily be hauled off to jail for his speech here.

          Hate speech laws are a very, very dangerous thing.

          • Blake Jordan

            But those kind of people would create the laws to block the speech they deemed unacceptable, they would not need an existing hate speech law to manipulate.

          • Brian Westley

            But those kind of people would create the laws to block the speech they deemed unacceptable, they would not need an existing hate speech law to manipulate.

            The difference is, a country that already HAS a hate speech law has already been granted to power to regulate speech, so you’ve already ceded them the authority to criminalize whatever the current political winds want.

          • Brian Westley

            There are no hate speech laws in the US, the 1st prevents it. There are hate crimes laws, which (like earlier laws) address motives for actions that are crimes, which is distinct.

          • another_steve

            Hate crimes laws penalize thought. They are the equivalent of hate speech laws. Government must not get into the business of penalizing thought.

            What you were “thinking” when you murdered me is irrelevant.

            The act merits punishment, not the hatred you may have felt for me or my community when you committed the act.

          • Brian Westley

            Hate crimes laws penalize thought. They are the equivalent of hate speech laws.

            No, they aren’t. Hate speech criminalizes speech; hate crime laws go to motive, which has always been pertinent in crime (murder vs. manslaughter might hinge entirely on what was going on in the person’s mind, for example).

            Hate crime law in the US only allows for additional penalties on existing laws, they don’t make any particular act illegal. I think they can be justified on the basis of (1) the terrorizing effect it can have for crimes against a person due to a trait shared by a group of people, and (2) for the lack of warning for victims — though I don’t think hate crimes should be limited to a laundry list of specific traits like race, religion, sexual orientation, etc, since e.g. some serial killers killed only hookers, which terrorizes other hookers.

          • another_steve

            I understand, fully, the rationale for hate crimes laws. They are rooted in Government’s attempt to send a message — the message being: You must not target for violence an individual or a community based on your personally-held biases and beliefs.

            It’s a noble message. But it remains ethically wrong for government to penalize you for what you are/were thinking at the time you committed the crime.

            A civilized people penalize actions, not thoughts.

          • Brian Westley

            But it remains ethically wrong for government to penalize you for what you are/were thinking at the time you committed the crime.

            I don’t agree, as that can be the difference between manslaughter and murder.

          • Peter Wde

            I agree Steve. Premeditation and motive etc. can be addressed when deciding the punishment for a criminal act. However I don’t even agree with hate crime legislation. Only individuals possess rights, abstractions such as ethnic groups do not.

          • Daniel

            Actually, all kinds of groups do in fact per se possess rights in American jurisprudence. Start with suspect classification and go from there.

            Hate crimes are terrorist acts. The direct victim is collateral to the main point, which is to frighten, harass, and intimidate whatever group the direct victim belongs to. Hate-crime laws recognise that difference between randomly-targeted violence and deliberately-targeted violence.

          • GarySFBCN

            Saying ‘die faggot’ while kicking the shit out of someone who is gay is an action. It isn’t a thought.

          • Daniel

            No, Steve, clearly you do not understand—even partially—the rationale for hate crimes laws. Hate crimes are terrorism, plain and simple. The direct victim is collateral to the main intent.

            Americans love to reflexively jerk their knee and go “Free speech! Free speech! First Amendment; free speeeeeech!”, never bothering to consider the simple facts that that free speech has limits and is not the same as consequence-free speech ()which exists nowhere, not even in the United States). the U.S. notion of “freedom of speech” is in theory extremely broad by the standards of most civilised countries, so yes, a great deal of speech that directly incites hatred is not legally actionable, as is a great deal of speech that doesn’t directly incite violence but gives everything the listener (reader, etc.) needs, including a nudge and a wink, to figure out what the speaker meant. That merits its own discussion and debate, but IMO the more interesting phenomenon is less superficial. It’s to do with how many Americans smugly bellow and sing and crow and pound their chests about the freedom of consequence-free speech they think they have (but in fact don’t), and the censorship they think they don’t have (but in fact do).

          • another_steve

            I value free thought and free speech highly, Daniel. It’s a “top-tier” ethical construct for me. You may not consider “thought” as sacrosanct as I and others do. If that’s the case, my arguments against hate crimes laws will not resonate with you.

            I appreciate your civil exchange with me on this, Daniel.

          • Daniel

            You’re welcome, but I’ll thank you to please keep your strawmen and red herrings to yourself; I’m allergic to both. I’d describe my regard for free thought in terms similar to yours—”top tier”, etc. My rejection of your argument against hate crime laws implies absolutely nothing about (and has nothing to do with) how highly I value free thought. You seem bound and determined to conflate hate crime laws with thought crime laws. I think you’re as wrong as can be on that.

          • Merv99

            So, if I have a brain seizure while driving and violently jerk the wheel toward a group of pedestrians… murder?

            By the way, I agree with you mostly on hate speech laws, but not hate crime. But even on hate speech I can see making an exception for credible advocacy of genocide. I can’t see why it’s illegal to threaten the life of one person, but legal to threaten the lives of millions.

          • another_steve

            Actions, not thoughts, Merv, is what we should be concerned with.

            Your thoughts are sacrosanct. Be they “good thoughts” or “bad thoughts,” government has no province in your thoughts.

            In your innermost place.

          • Merv99

            My brain generated an impulse that travelled down the nerve to my arm and caused me to swerve into the pedestrians. That was an action generated entirely by me. You have to take my state of mind into consideration when determining what if any crime took place, unless you think injuries resulting from seizures should be treated as crimes.

          • another_steve

            Your scenario supposes a physical consideration beyond your control, Merv. We’re not talking about that kind of thing.

            If you’re a mentally competent adult, your thoughts are within your control.

            Government must not “delve” into your thoughts — your most secret and sacred of spaces.

          • Merv99

            Well, I’m relieved you don’t take the “action” paradigm to the extreme. But, as a practical matter, since seizures don’t necessarily leave observable physical evidence, you would still have the government delving into your state of mind to convince them that there was no moral intent to injure the pedestrians. They’re unlikely to immediately take at face value your claim that you had a seizure. Your ideal of governmental non-delving is unattainable unless you judge *only* by actions, pathological or not.

          • Peter Wde

            Correct Brian. The First Amendment protects speech and ideas others find truly vile and offensive that’s its raison d’etre.

            Truly sad that in other so-called civilized countries they fine and jail people for thought crimes.

            Thankfully our Constitution protects us from this tyranny.

          • Peter Wde

            No truer words were ever uttered.

      • Peter Wde
      • Peter Wde

        UK, France, Germany, Austria, Sweden……

        • Blake Jordan

          Are people being imprisoned for speaking out against their government in those countries?

          • Peter Wde

            They are being fined and imprisoned for speech that is completely protected here in the US.

    • another_steve

      Thank you, Brian. What you say there will totally go over the heads of a majority of knee-jerk far-leftists, but it’s very very true.

      A civilized people do not penalize thought. Nor do they penalize speech — which is an extension of thought.

      These laws are “feel good” laws. But they are ethically wrong.

      Just like death penalty laws are “feel good” laws — and just as they are also ethically wrong.

      • adamsmo05

        I assume you do discern between hate crimes laws like the US has and the hate speech laws of western Europe and the like.

        • another_steve

          Speech is an extension of thought. They are one and the same.

          Zero difference between hate speech laws and hate crimes laws.

      • Polterguest

        The far left loves free speech until it is speech they dislike. At least the far right is up front about wanting to regulate speech in the name of morality and all that.

        • Peter Wde

          The political left used to uphold the principal of free speech…now its the intellectual excrement of speech codes, triggering phrases, hate speech, privileged viewpoint theory etc..authoritarian garbage.

  • 10:30

    While it is tremendous that this bill has passed the Nationalrat/National Council (analogous to the US House of Representatives), it has not yet passed the Ständerat/Small chamber (analogous to the US Senate). Switzerland’s government is extremely byzantine, with 3 separate councils in parliament. This bill has passed the main one, but must now be approved by the Ständerat, which has rejected an earlier form of this bill. It has also been rejected in the legal sub-council… So we’ll see what happens. However, yippee! That something finally happened! I cannot overrepresent how slow things move through the Swiss legislature.

    For those interested, here’s some bits from today’s NZZ: “Nun gehen die Vorstösse in den Ständerat. Im ersten Durchgang hatte die kleine Kammer die Standesinitiative abgelehnt. Reynards Initiative wurde bisher erst von der ständerätlichen Rechtskommission behandelt, von dieser aber abgelehnt.”

  • billbear1961
  • anne marie in philly

    so why can’t he USA have a law like this? oh yeah, the GOP crazies…

    • Peter Wde

      Wrong. The US Constitution forbids it.

  • Peter Wde

    This truly sinister bill has no place in a civilized society.

    Thankfully such legislation is forbidden here in the US.

    • Daniel

      Right on cue, thoughtless knee-jerk babbling about OMGZFREESPEEEEECH!!!11!1!!!!!11!!! as though the US has that.

      • Peter Wde

        It does!

        More than any nation on the planet the US has enshrined freedom of expression in its founding documents as one of its most sacred and defining principals.

        • camel54

          Then sold all its newspapers and TVS to bigots.

          • Peter Wde

            Holding racist or bigoted views is totally protected here in the US as it should be…in other less enlightened countries not so much and its off to jail you go.

  • TheSeer

    It is wrong to criminalize speech. Because speech is the extension of thought.

  • Jim

    Hooray for the anti-discrimination part, but are we supposed to believe that there’s such a plague of anti-gay hate speech in Switzerland that the government needs to monitor people’s conversations and punish anyone who says something not allowed by law? Government prohibiting discrimination is civilized, but government policing speech is tyrannical. How does diminishing personal freedom and increasing the police power of the state improve the daily life of lesbians and gays?

  • Ore Carmi

    Well, I think that’s terrific. Thank you, Switzerland!

  • Dazzer

    There’s something truly pathetic reading some of the comments here lionizing the supposed freedom of expression in America and criticising other Western countries for the way other Western democratic countries for having a lower standard.

    It reveals a deeply ignorant approach to not only other countries, it also displays a confounding ignorance about what the First Amendment means in US law.

    To any American here feeling superior, please go shout ‘Fire’ in a crowded theatre to see how far it gets you.

    Also, should you believe so strongly in your freedom of speech, please use this opportunity to make threats against the life of the President or Vice-President.

    I’ll come back later to read your, doubtless delightful, accounts of your meetings with the Secret Service or FBI.

    Similarly, please take this opportunity to advocate for a violently established caliphate in the US. (Please send us a postcard from Guantanamo Bay to let us know how far ‘free speech’ got you.)

    The thing about these so-called ‘hate-speech’ laws is that they aren’t there to prevent the speech, they’re there to prevent the consequences of that speech.

    I live in the UK. And I love living here. If I walk down the street and am assaulted by someone because I’m gay, I fully expect that the person who assaults me is prosecuted to the full extent of the law. However, if that atack was provoked by someone else inciting hatred against me because of my sexuality, I can also expect the person inciting violence against my person be prosecuted.

    The illogical silliness of ‘First Amenment! Murica!’ advocates is that if I were set upon by a pack of vicious, trained dogs, those advocates would argue that the law would only hold the dogs culpable and not the trainer.

    ‘Freedom of speech’ is a cultural concept – it is not an absolute.

    Those Americans here (and I fully acknowledge that it’s not all Americans) jumping up and down with the big foam finger shouting ‘We’re Number One. We’re Number One’ are kidding themselves if they think they’re any better than any other democracy.

    • Câl

      The country of the NSA and total monitoring of speech and a huge prison, carefully kept offshore, for those whose only “crimes” may be hate speech but are not even allowed a trial really has no right criticising Europe.