Irish back gay marriage
Irish voters have resoundingly backed amending the constitution to legalise gay marriage, leaders on both sides of the Irish referendum declared yesterday after the world's first national vote on the issue.
Gay couples hugged and kissed each other amid scenes of jubilation at counting centres and at the official results centre in Dublin Castle, whose cobblestoned central square was opened so thousands of revellers could sit in the sunshine and watch 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, or friends and co-workers and colleagues, we're a majority," said Varadkar, who watched the votes being tabulated at the County Dublin ballot centre.
"For me, it wasn't just a referendum. It was more like a social revolution," he said.
Political analysts who have covered Irish referendums for decades agreed that yesterday's landslide marked a stunning generational shift from the 1980s, when voters firmly backed Catholic Church teachings and overwhelmingly voted against abortion and divorce.