The people of Ireland said “Yes” to same-sex marriage by a landslide in a referendum that marked a dramatic social shift in a traditionally Catholic country that only decriminalized homosexuality two decades ago.
After one of the largest turnouts in a referendum there, 62 percent of voters said “Yes”, making Ireland the first country to adopt same-sex marriage by a popular vote.
Friday’s referendum saw a resounding 62.1% of Irish voters saying “yes” to changing the nation’s constitution to allow gay marriage in the world’s first national voter referendum on same-sex marriage. The total turnout was 60.5%, the highest in two decades.
The upper cobblestoned courtyard of Dublin Castle is open to 2,000 people for people to view the declarations on a large screen. As the results were announced, thousands of gay rights activists cheered, hugged and cried at the news and then burst into a rendition of the national anthem.
Government ministers waved a rainbow flag from the stage in front of the crowd and one lesbian senator proposed to her wife (they already got married in Canada but their union was not recognized in Ireland) on live national television.
Even before the actual voting day, polls showed Ireland leaning towards legalizing gay marriage.
The Republic of Ireland has a written constitution which can only be changed by referendum. More than 3.2 million people were asked whether they wanted to change the country’s constitution to allow gay and lesbian couples to marry. The Ireland Constitution will now be amended to say that two people can marry, “without distinction as to their sex.”
The referendum passed by a large margin — winning over 70% of the vote in many parts of Dublin, The Guardian.
More than 3 million Irish citizens voted on the issue, and turnout was highest in Dublin and other larger cities. Thousands of expats traveled home to vote, as postal voting was not allowed.
Overwhelmingly Roman Catholic and by reputation socially conservative, Ireland joins 18 other countries, including Britain, France, Spain, South Africa, Brazil, Canada and some U.S. states, in allowing couples of the same gender to marry. Ireland, though, was the first to do so through a voter referendum. Other countries have used legislative or court actions.
The results were celebrated around the world, with many people joining in on Twitter to congratulate the people of Ireland, including Scottish author J.K. Rowling.
Sitting here watching the Irish make history. Extraordinary and wonderful.
— J.K. Rowling (@jk_rowling) May 23, 2015
While plenty were ecstatic with the vote, opponents expressed concerns over the legitimacy of the polls.
— hermann kelly (@hermannkelly) May 23, 2015
The broad approval for same-sex marriage reflects a sea change in Irish culture. 84% of the population of the Republic of Ireland identifies as Roman Catholic and decriminalized homosexual behavior only 22 years ago.
The Catholic Church, which teaches that homosexual activity is a sin, saw its dominance of Irish politics collapse after a series of child sex abuse scandals in the early 1990s and limited its ‘No’ campaigning to sermons to its remaining suppporters.
The archbishop of Dublin said the result presented a challenge.
“It is a social revolution. It’s very clear that if this referendum is an affirmation of the views of young people, then the Church has a huge task ahead of it,” Archbishop Diarmuid Martin told national broadcaster RTE. “The Church needs to do a reality check.”