Historic Ireland vote: Gay Marriage Vote Ireland

Published: May 23, 2015

Historic Ireland vote: Gay Marriage Vote Ireland, Ireland appeared poised on Saturday to become the world’s first nation to approve same-sex marriage by a popular vote, with early vote counts showing strong and broad support for a measure that would have been unthinkable just a few years ago in what traditionally had been a Roman Catholic stronghold.

Not long after counting began at Dublin Castle, a government complex that was once the epicenter of British rule, the leader of the opposition, David Quinn, the director of the Iona Institute, conceded the outcome in a tweet: “Congratulations to the Yes side. Well done.”

Both proponents and opponents said the only remaining question was the size of the victory for approval. Ronan Mullen, an Irish senator and one of only a few politicians to oppose the measure, predicted the win would be “substantial.” The official results will be announced Saturday afternoon.

That the vote even came to pass barely two decades after Ireland decriminalized homosexuality accentuated the cultural change afoot and the church’s declining influence after a series of scandals. But the vote is also the latest chapter in a sharpening global cultural clash. While marriage equality is surging in the West, gay rights are under renewed attack in Russia, in parts of Africa, and from Islamic extremists, most notably the Islamic State.

Though 84 percent of the Irish are Catholic, church attendance has faded, and the once-lockstep solidarity with church teachings has eroded, a result of rising secularism and reaction to the pedophile scandals that have rocked the church.

In Ireland, there was support for marriage across the political spectrum, including from Prime Minister Enda Kenny of the center-right Fine Gael party, and his Labour coalition partner, which had pushed for the referendum. Sinn Fein, an opposition party, also expressed support.

Gay rights activists around the world said a victory would be an important milestone.

“I think this is a moment that rebrands Ireland to a lot of folks around the world as a country not stuck in tradition but that has an inclusive tradition,” said Ty Cobb, the international director of the Human Rights Campaign, a Washington-based advocacy group.

Campaigning on both sides of the debate had been underway for months, with posters, billboards and commercials. One opposition commercial said, “You should be able to have reservations about gay marriage without being called a homophobe,” while a commercial supporting same-sex marriage featured young people encouraging their parents to vote.

Late in the campaign, four Catholic bishops urged parishioners to vote against the measure. Thousands are believed to have returned to Ireland to take part in the vote.

Soon after the first ballot boxes were opened, and paper yes and no votes began to stack up in front of ballot counters at long tables in a cavernous hall, it became apparent that the referendum would likely pass.

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