The Liechtenstein Coat of Arms

As conservative lawmakers in New York state ignore polls showing a majority of people there support same-sex marriage and continue to wrestle over whether to approve a bill legalizing gay marriage, the citizens of Liechtenstein on Sunday voted overwhelmingly to give legal recognition to civil partnerships for same-sex couples, according to this report by AFP news service.

Liechtenstein is a tiny principality with a population of about 35,000, tucked in between Switzerland and Austria. In Sunday’s referendum, 68 percent of those voting were in favor of civil partnerships.

(Usually, at least here in the U.S., legal recognition for same-sex partners comes through the courts or, more rarely, through legislation. Public referenda on such rights usually end up with the gays and lesbians on the losing end.)

The vote means that same-sex couples will get the same tax, inheritance and welfare rights that straight married couples get in Liechtenstein. The law is based on the one that went into effect in Switzerland in 2007 and excludes the right to adopt children, according to AFP.

Liechtenstein’s Parliament was on the verge of passing the civil partnership law earlier this year, but a group called Vox Populi insisted the question be put to a vote of the people. And the people, as Prime Minister Klaus Tschuetscher said, voted to put “an end to the discrimination faced by same-sex couples.”

According to the Wikipedia entry on Liechtenstein, in 2000 about 78 percent of the country’s population identified as Catholic (down from 85 percent in 1990, but still high). I find that quite interesting, considering that some of the strongest opposition to marriage equality in the U.S. — and especially in the current battle over same-sex marriage in New York — comes from the Catholic Church.

Wikipedia also notes that Liechtenstein is governed under a “constitutional absolute monarchy,” in which power is shared by the Parliament and the Prince of Liechtenstein, and the prince has “veto” power over laws passed by Parliament.