Switzerland to vote on LGBTQ marriage

Swiss voters will decide September 26 whether to legalize same-sex marriage, a change in the law that also would give lesbian couples access to donor sperm and same-sex couples the ability to adopt children together.

Both houses of the Swiss parliament approved the new law in December 2020, but right-wing conservatives mounted an opposition campaign, gathering the 50,000+ signatures needed to force a national referendum.

Swiss “registered partnerships” not equal to marriage

Every year, some 700 Swiss couples enter into “registered partnerships,” a civil status exclusively for same-sex couples, which gives them some, but not all, the rights and protections of marriage, as reported by SWI swissinfo.ch, a branch of Swiss Broadcasting Corporation SRG SSR. Registered partners may share a surname, are protected from rental discrimination and are eligible to inherit or receive pension benefits from their partner. They do not receive favorable immigration status for non-citizen partners and cannot adopt children jointly as a couple.

If approved by voters in September, registered civil partnership will end in Switzerland. The new law will allow registered partners to transfer their existing partnership to a legal marriage or to remain in their existing registered partnership; however, no new registered partnerships will be allowed. The Swiss federal administration is working on replacing registered partnerships with a type of civil union based on the French model, swissinfo.ch reported.  “The idea is to create a structure with less extensive legal consequences than marriage for both heterosexual and gay couples.”

New Swiss law would help lesbians, not gay men, become biological parents

Under the new “marriage for all” law, same-sex couples would also be able to adopt a child together. Non-citizen partners may benefit from a shorter and less expensive naturalization process.

Married lesbians also would have access to Swiss sperm donations and would be recognized as the mothers of any resulting offspring from birth. However, if the intended mothers use a sperm donor from another country, only the biological mother would be recognized as a legal parent.

The new law will do nothing to change the status of surrogacy or egg donation, both of which are banned in Switzerland—which means that “marriage for all” will (for now) do nothing for gay men who want to become parents via assisted reproduction.

Switzerland lags most of Europe in approving same-sex marriage

Switzerland is one of the few holdouts among European nations in not permitting same-sex marriage, along with Italy, Greece and Liechtenstein, and is ranked just ahead of Estonia and Serbia on a survey of LGBTQ rights by ILGA-Europe, the European Region of the International Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans and Intersex Association.

In the two decades since Netherlands became the first country in the world to legalize same-sex marriage in 2001, 29 countries have done so, including the United States in 2015. However, in many parts of the world, homosexuality is still considered a crime, and in 10 countries it is punishable by death.

Now in its eighth year, the effort to legalize same-sex marriage in Switzerland was launched in 2013 by a parliamentary initiative from the centrist Liberal Green Party. Legislators debated several versions of the law before approving an amendment to the civil code to legalize marriage between two women or two men in December 2020.

While Switzerland shares a Christian, culturally conservative heritage with other Western nations such as France, as we reported, a February 2020 survey by Pink Cross, a Swiss gay rights organization found that more than 80 percent of Swiss responded in support of same-sex marriage.

Legalizing same-sex marriage a welcome step toward LGBTQ equality

As elsewhere, the effort to establish equal rights for LGBTQ people in Switzerland advances in fits and starts. As promising as the Swiss referendum is for hundreds of LGBTQ couples and their families, the new law would still fall short of full “marriage equality” for all.

To begin with, unlike heterosexual couples, because of Switzerland’s continuing bans on egg donation and surrogacy, gay men who want to become parents will still be forced to travel to other countries for assisted reproduction services, then navigate the additional hurdles of establishing legal parentage and Swiss citizenship to bring their babies home. Even under the new law, same-sex married couples would not be entitled to the same survivor pension rights enjoyed by heterosexual married couples. Amnesty International also points to Switzerland’s lack of laws protecting transgender individuals from discrimination and to its failure to properly assess risk to LGBTQ foreign nationals threatened with deportation, as The European Court of Human Rights ruled recently.

As history teaches us, even the best of laws don’t necessarily change hearts and minds—but they do have tangible, practical impacts on countless lives. If Swiss voters do the right thing on September 26, thousands of children living today in households with two moms or two dads will benefit from the financial, social and symbolic benefits that come with equal legal recognition of their families. With any luck, hearts and minds will evolve on the issues of egg donation and surrogacy, survivor pensions and other issues related to same-sex marriage, as has happened elsewhere. For now, Switzerland has a chance to take one significant step forward out of the neutral zone on marriage—a very welcome step forward.


Richard Vaughn

Attorney Rich Vaughn is founder and principal of International Fertility Law Group, one of the world’s largest and best-known law firms focused exclusively on assisted reproductive technology, or ART, including in vitro fertilization (IVF), surrogacy, sperm donation or egg donation. Rich is co-author of the book “Developing A Successful Assisted Reproduction Technology Law Practice,” American Bar Association Publishing, 2017.

Peiya Wang
Paralegal (律师助理)

Peiya Wang joined IFLG as a paralegal in 2015, where she manages surrogacy, egg donation and parental establishment cases and provides translation services for many of IFLG’s international clients. Peiya moved to the United States in 2012 to attend Northeastern University in Boston, Massachusetts, receiving a Master of Science degree in Global Studies and International Affairs in 2014. Peiya moved to Los Angeles in 2015, received her paralegal certification from UCLA Extension, and obtained her second Master of Science degree in Legal Studies from Loyola Law School. Peiya relocated back to her hometown, Beijing, China in 2019 and works from IFLG’s Beijing office. When away from the office, Peiya is a dragon boat paddler and a ballroom dancer, where she favors Rumbas and Cha-chas. She is fluent in Mandarin and English.

Luis Sosa

Luis R. Sosa joined IFLG as a paralegal in 2016, where he enjoys pursuing his passion for family and reproductive law. While working toward his bachelor’s degree at Florida International University which he received in 2013, Luis worked as a paralegal and legal assistant for family law litigation firms in Miami and Washington, D.C. As a paralegal and case manager for IFLG, Luis, who is bilingual in English and Spanish, manages surrogacy, egg donation and other reproductive law cases. Luis has worked for IFLG in both Los Angeles as well as San Francisco, and is currently based in Dallas, Texas. In addition to spending time with husband Randy and dog Marty, Luis enjoys being outdoors and appreciating the arts.

Toni Hughes

After receiving her B.S. in Business Management, Toni joined IFLG to pursue her dream of working in the legal field. As a Paralegal with over 10 years of experience in the assisted reproduction technology field, Toni is our Managing Paralegal, responsible for training and managing our paralegal staff. From drafting legal documents to assisting our clients with post-birth matters, Toni embraces the challenge of learning something new in this field each day. Besides spending time with her son, Jordan, Toni enjoys exploring new things, cooking, spending time with family and friends, and serving as a Youth Advisor for “Next Generation.”


Kim has over 30 years of experience in the legal field and has worked exclusively in surrogacy and assisted reproduction law since 1999. Kim is a senior case manager responsible for managing parental establishment cases and interacting with IFLG’s Of Counsel attorneys across the country. With three children of her own, Kim understands the importance of family and finds working in this area of law a rewarding experience.

Rich Vaughn

Attorney Rich Vaughn combined his personal passion as a father of twin boys born via assisted reproductive technology (ART) with more than 20 years of experience in business and technology law to build International Fertility Law Group. Today IFLG is one of the most successful and best-known law firms in the world focused exclusively on fertility law, helping thousands of intended parents through empathetic listening, compassionate guidance, and unmatched legal expertise. As an advocate for reproductive freedom, Rich also contributes his knowledge and time to improving the understanding and practice of ART law, most recently as a founder of and speaker at the first Cambridge University International Surrogacy Symposium held in June 2019, as immediate past chair of the American Bar Association ART Committee, and as a popular presenter to law schools, faculty and advocacy organizations all over the world.

Elizabeth Tamayo

Elizabeth received her Bachelors of Science degree in Criminal Justice from California State University of Los Angeles. Shortly after graduating, she continued her education at the University of California, Los Angeles where she obtained her Paralegal certificate. Elizabeth is fluent in Spanish and has been in the legal field since 2009. She is excited to be a part of the IFLG Team helping families realize their dreams.

Sunny Chien

Sunny joined IFLG as a paralegal in 2017, where she manages surrogacy, egg donation and parental establishment cases for many of IFLG’s international clients. She holds a Bachelor of Arts degree in Philosophy from California State University of Los Angeles, where she graduated cum laude. Sunny is bilingual in English and Mandarin and has extensive experience as a legal assistant and paralegal at Los Angeles-area law firms. She is excited to be part of the IFLG team. In her spare time, Sunny enjoys spending time with her family and their dog, going to the beach, cooking, and being outdoors.

Los Angeles

5757 Wilshire Blvd., Suite 645

Los Angeles, CA 90036

Phone:  +1 323 331 9343

Email:  info@iflg.net

Website:  www.iflg.net

New York

501 Fifth Avenue, Suite 1900

New York, NY 10017

Phone:  +1 844 400 2016

Email:  info@iflg.net

Website:  www.iflg.net

Molly O'Brien

Fertility law attorney Molly O’Brien began working in the field of assisted reproduction technology (ART) in 2005, at an egg donation agency and a surrogacy agency where she became familiar with all aspects of in-vitro fertilization, egg donation and the financial aspects of surrogacy. Since becoming an attorney in 2011, Molly has drafted and negotiated surrogacy, egg donation, sperm donation embryo donation agreements for hundreds of her clients all over the world.

Phoebe Sadler

Fertility law attorney Phoebe Sadler has a background in family law and has been practicing exclusively in the area of assisted reproduction technology (ART) law since 2018.

Rubina Aslanyan

Rubina has an extensive background in the legal field as a paralegal in Family Law and has worked in surrogacy and assisted reproduction law since 2012. Her area of focus is in managing and assisting clients with surrogacy, egg donation, and parental establishment cases for many of IFLG’s domestic and international clients. During her spare time, Rubina enjoys spending time with her family and dog Bella, traveling and cooking.

Alexander Espinoza
Legal Assistant

Alexander joined IFLG as a legal assistant in 2019, where he manages surrogacy, egg donation and parental establishment cases. Alex is bilingual in English and Spanish and has been in the legal field for 23 years. Alex is excited to join the IFLG team and pursuing his will to help others in the reproductive law process. In his spare time he loves spending time with his family and friends, being outdoors, road trips, loves music and dancing.

Cara Stecker
Senior Paralegal

After receiving her paralegal certificate in 2005, Cara began working in assisted reproductive law. During the fifteen years Cara has worked in this field, she has gained a wide range of experience and knowledge that she uses to help better assist clients and those involved in the assisted reproductive journey. Cara’s primary roles involve managing parental establishment matters and coordination with IFLG’s Of Counsel attorney network, drafting contracts and parental establishment court documents and providing support to other team members. Cara finds great joy in being a small part of a team of caring people who help others achieve their dream of having a family. In her spare time, Cara enjoys spending time with her husband and three children, watching her children play the sports they love, and she enjoys, running, cycling and exploring the outdoors in the sun.

Stephanie Kimble

Stephanie received her BS in History and Political Thought from Concordia University Irvine in 2015 and her Paralegal Certificate from University of San Diego later that same year. She has been working as a Paralegal since 2016 in Family and Reproductive Law. She is excited to be part of International Fertility Law Group working on managing Surrogacy, Egg donation and Parental Establishment Cases.

Trish Pittman
Assistant Financial Coordinator

With more than 20 years of experience in the field of accounting, Trish joined the IFLG team in 2019 as Assistant Financial Coordinator. Her client-facing focus at IFLG is to assist with all client trust accounting. Trish is the mother of two daughters and enjoys spending time teaching and learning new things from them. In her free time, she loves long walks in the park and reading suspense and mystery novels.

Katie Deaquino
Senior Paralegal

Katie is a Senior Paralegal with IFLG and has dedicated over sixteen years to the areas of surrogacy and reproductive law. She received her Paralegal Certificate from Coastline Community College and has worked with some of the top law firms in the assisted reproduction community. Katie is also a commissioned Notary Public. With IFLG, Katie manages Surrogacy, Egg Donation, and Parental Establishment cases and provides support to other IFLG team members. Katie truly enjoys helping others build their families through assisted reproduction and is thankful she has had the rewarding experience of assisting IFLG clients. Katie often spends her free time with her Husband, four young children and her bulldog “Bella”.

Elsa Jimenez
Legal Assistant

Elsa joined IFLG as a Legal Assistant in 2019, bringing more than 35 years of experience working in the legal profession (concentrating in tort and litigation matters). At IFLG she assists surrogates with their surrogacy and parental matters. The oldest of five siblings, born and raised in East Los Angeles to Mexican immigrant parents, Elsa loves “seeing the beauty of families forming” through assisted reproductive technology. She and her husband Carlos have four children and one grandson. Elsa enjoys jazz and ’80s music, being outdoors in nature, collecting teacups and tea pots, and spending time with her close-knit family.