Human Rights Watch have said that the people of Liechtenstein should vote “yes” in this month’s referendum on whether their parliament should proceed to legalise same-sex partnerships.

Boris Dittrich, advocacy director of the LGBT Rights Program at Human Rights Watch said: “The parliament has already taken the right steps to ensure that everyone in Liechtenstein, regardless of sexual orientation, is entitled to the protection of the law . . . now the citizens of Liechtenstein have an opportunity to endorse this move against discrimination.”

If the majority of voters say yes in the referendum – which is to take place 17-19 June – lesbian and gay couples will be entitled by law to most of the same rights as married heterosexual couples, except in the areas of second-parent adoption, artificial insemination, and surrogacy. A no vote will leave same-sex partnerships outside of the protection of the law.

Mr Dittrich added: “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.”

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

However, under Liechtenstein law, a bill can be prevented from becoming law if the people block it through a referendum, which must be held within three months of the adoption of the bill.

Such a referendum requires a petition signed by a minimum of 1,000 registered voters. On 21 April a group called Vox Populi presented a total of 1,208 signatures to the government, effectively demanding a referendum. The result will be binding.

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