IRISH voters have resoundingly backed amending the constitution to legalise gay marriage after the world’s first national vote on the issue.
As the ballot was counted yesterday, the only question appeared to be how large the Yes margin of victory from Friday’s vote would be.
Gay couples hugged and kissed each other amid scenes of jubilation at counting centres, and outside the official results centre in Dublin Castle thousands watched the results live on big-screen televisions.
“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 Leo Varadkar, a Cabinet minister who came out as gay at the start of a government-led effort to amend Ireland’s conservative Catholic constitution.
“People from the LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender) community in Ireland are a minority. But with our parents, our families, our friends and co-workers and colleagues, we’re a majority,” said Varadkar. “For me it wasn’t just a referendum. It was more like a social revolution.”
In the first official result, the Dublin North West constituency voted 70.4 per cent Yes to gay marriage, with observers saying the Yes side had an unassailable nationwide lead. Michael Barron and Jaime Nanci, a gay couple legally married in South Africa five years ago, celebrated with friends at the Dublin City counting centre as the reality sank in that, once Ireland’s parliament passes the complementary legislation, their foreign marriage will be recognised in their homeland.
“Oh. My. God! We’re actually Married now!” Nanci tweeted to his spouse and the world, part of a cavalcade of tweets from Ireland tagged #LandslideOfLove.
Political analysts who have covered Irish referenda for decades agreed that yesterday’s emerging landslide marked a stunning generational shift from the 1980s, when voters still firmly backed Catholic Church teachings and overwhelmingly voted against abortion and divorce.
The Yes side ran a creative, compelling campaign that harnessed the power of social media to mobilise young voters. The vote came five years after parliament approved marriage-style civil partnerships for gay couples.
No campaigners said their defeat was almost inevitable, given that all of Ireland’s political parties and most politicians backed the legalisation of homosexual unions.
David Quinn, leader of the Catholic think-tank Iona Institute, said:“We helped to provide a voice to the hundreds of thousands of Irish people who did vote No. The fact that no political party supported them must be a concern from a democratic point of view.”