Human Rights Watch has urged citizens of the small central European country of Liechtenstein to vote to legalise same-sex partnerships in a referendum next month.

If the majority of voters say “yes” in the referendum scheduled to take place from 17 to 19 June, lesbian and gay couples will be entitled by law to most of the same rights as married heterosexual couples, except in a few areas, such as second-parent adoption, artificial insemination, and surrogacy.

A “no” vote will leave same-sex partnerships outside of the protection of the law.

“A ‘yes’ vote not only recognises the reality that there is absolutely no reason that lesbians and gay men should not be entitled to protection of the law for their intimate relationships, but is also consistent with European efforts to modernise family law,” said Boris Dittrich, advocacy director of the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender (LGBT) Rights Program at Human Rights Watch.

‘People of Liechtenstein should not isolate their country’

A registered partnership bill was unanimously adopted by the Liechtenstein Parliament on March 16. The bill was due to become law on September 1.

However, under Liechtenstein law a bill can be prevented from becoming law if the people block it through a referendum. On April 21 a group presented the required amount of signatures to force a referendum on the matter to the government.

“The people of Liechtenstein should not isolate their country from Western Europe or their LGBT citizens from the rest of society,” Dittrich said.

“The fundamental right not to be discriminated against should be observed in Liechtenstein, and same-sex partnerships should be recognised by law. The people of Liechtenstein should vote ‘yes’ in the referendum.”

With a population of under 40,000 people, the German-speaking country is bordered by Switzerland to the west and south and by Austria to the east.

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