Ireland Votes ‘Yes’ To Legalizing Same Sex Marriage In Historic Referendum

Ireland has become the first country in the world to approve same-sex marriage by national vote.

On Friday, the Irish community voted with a resounding “Yes” to the legalization of gay marriage, with early vote counts showing major support for the measure.

The referendum reportedly saw thousands of Irish citizens travelling back to their homeland to take part in the historic vote – where more than 3.2 million people were asked if the country’s constitution should be amended to allow gay and lesbian couples to get married.

This would mean that Ireland’s constitution would change so marriages between two people would be legal “without distinction as to their sex.”

Ireland Holds Referendum On Same Sex Marriage Law

While the counting is still taking place, an early tally of votes on Saturday showed an overwhelming support for same-sex marital unions.

And the fact that the vote has come to pass is a surprise to many as Catholicism has been a major influence in the country, with 84 percent of the Irish population being Catholic. It was also only two decades ago that homosexuality became decriminalized.

“We’re the first country in the world to enshrine marriage equality in our constitution and do so by popular mandate. That makes us a beacon, a light to the rest of the world of liberty and equality. So it’s a very proud day to be Irish,” said Health minister Leo Varadkar, who came out as Ireland’s first openly gay minister at the start of a government-led effort to amend Ireland’s conservative Catholic constitution.

Varadkar, who likened the campaign to a “social revolution,” told Irish broadcaster RTE that it seemed like about 75 percent of votes being counted were in favor of the legalization of gay marriage.

According to the New York Times, Ireland’s support for same-sex marriage was seen across the political spectrum – with support from Prime Minister Enda Kenny of the center-right Fine Gael party, as well as his Labour coalition partner, which advocated the referendum. Support was also expressed by the opposition party, Sinn Fein.

For months, there have been campaigning both for and against gay marriage, with billboards, posters, and commercials being used to try to sway voters into their corner. One commercial, for instance, involved young people encouraging their parents to vote, while an opposing ad stated that “You should be able to have reservations about gay marriage without being called a homophobe.”

Four Catholic Bishops even started urging parishioners to vote against same-sex marriage.

Still, a majority of votes in favor of the measure was noticed shortly after the ballot boxes were opened. And after all the votes were counted, it was declared that the same-sex plebiscite was passed by 1,201,607 votes to 734,300. That’s 62.1 per cent yes to 37.9 per cent no – with a total turnout of 60.5 per cent.

This historic referendum puts Ireland with 19 other countries that have legalized same sex marriage.

[Photo: Charles McQuillan/Getty Images]