Switzerland moves to allow double surnames: What you need to know
More than 10 years after the practice was banned, families in Switzerland will soon be able to use double and hyphenated surnames again. On January 24, the Swiss government officially came out in favour of the change, which should be sent to parliament this spring.
Move to overturn the ban on new Swiss double surnames
Since 2013, newly married couples in Switzerland have been unable to choose to have a double or hyphenated surname, and couples are also unable to give their newborn children a double surname. Pairs were able to use a hyphenated last name like “Smith-Lustenberger”, but this was not considered someone's “official surname” according to the state - even though the hyphenated name could feature on passports and residence permits in some cases.
The law change was justified at the time as a step toward equality, as the new rules stated that women could keep their own surname and no longer had to take the name of their spouse or fuse their maiden name with their partner's when they got married or entered into a civil partnership. However, it soon became clear that the inclusion of the double-barrelled name ban in the law was not a popular decision - bear in mind that in 2015, one in five Swiss names were double.
Attempts to scrap the rule began in 2017, but it took until last year before a bill to get rid of the ban was drafted and accepted by the National Council. Now, in a statement issued on January 24, 2024, the Federal Council said it accepted parliament’s proposal and wants to see it made into law.
What will the new rules be for double surnames in Switzerland?
Under the plans, each spouse will be given six different options when choosing their surname to register in Switzerland. They can:
- Keep their unmarried surname or maiden name
- Adopt the surname of their spouse
- Combine surnames into a double surname (Smith Lustenberger, Lustenberger Smith, for example)
- Combine surnames into a hyphenated surname (Smith-Lustenberger, Lustenberger-Smith)
What’s more, if the couple has a child, they can give them any of the permitted surnames listed above. For example, Steven Smith and Alice Lustenberger would be able to name their child Timothy Lustenberger-Smith, without having to change their surnames to match. The Federal Council explained that this rule would allow parents to express the relationship they have with their child, even if they are not together or married to the other parent.
In the statement, the Federal Council said that “social reality” meant that the rules should be changed. With their support, the proposal will be submitted to parliament for approval, which is likely to occur during the spring session.