Early indications suggest that Irish voters backed same-sex marriage by a landslide in a historic referendum marking a dramatic social shift in the traditionally Catholic country, reports Reuters.
Final results of Friday’s referendum were not expected until later today, but government ministers and opponents of the bill predicted Ireland had become the first country to adopt same-sex marriage by a popular vote by a margin of around two-to-one, only two decades after it decriminalized homosexuality.
“This has really touched a nerve in Ireland,” Equality Minister Aodhan O’Riordain said. “It’s a very strong message to every LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender) young person in Ireland and every LGBT young person in the world.”
Health Minister Leo Varadkar, who came out as gay in a radio interview earlier this year, said the referendum resembled a “social revolution.”
State broadcaster RTE reported that up to 80 percent of voters backed the ‘Yes’ campaign in some working-classing areas of Dublin. The results were much closer in many rural areas, but the overwheliming majority of voters appeared likely to back ‘Yes’, RTE noted.
Only a third of the country backed the decriminalization of gay sex for men over 17 in 1993, according to a poll at the time. A supreme court judge in 1983 said homosexuality was “morally wrong” and contributed to depression and suicide.
“This is a big placard from the people of Ireland to the rest of the world saying this is the way forward,” said David Norris, who began a campaign for gay rights in the late 1970s.
The Catholic Church, whose dominance of Irish politics collapsed in the wake of a series of sex scandals in the early 1990s, still teaches that homosexual activity is a sin. But it limited its ‘No’ campaigning to sermons to its remaining flock, a marked contrast with active public opposition to similar moves in France and elsewhere.
Instead, lay groups led the opposition by raising concerns over parenthood and surrogacy rights for gay couples. Many believe the recognition of the legal rights of same-sex couples in 2009 is sufficient.
One of the main opponents of the bill conceded minutes after the first boxes were opened.
“Everyone seems to be predicting a ‘yes’ … and that seems to be the case at the moment. It’s disappointing,” said John Murray from Catholic think tank the Iona Institute.
And here are some of the best twitter reactions to Ireland’s landslide marriage equality vote:
Amazing that in my parent's lifetime it was illegal to be a homosexual and now Ireland is voting to recognise the right to marry #MarRef
— Andrew Clarke (@realdrewclarke) May 23, 2015
'So, when are you planning to get married?' A million mothers later today. #MarRef
— J Courtenay Grimwood (@JonCG) May 23, 2015
— TheJournal.ie (@thejournal_ie) May 23, 2015