Early counting points to strong ‘Yes’ vote in Irish same-sex marriage referendum

Early counting indicates Ireland has voted heavily in favour of allowing same-sex marriage in an historic referendum

DUBLIN, IRELAND (MAY 23, 2015) (REUTERS) – Ireland appears to have voted heavily in favour of allowing same-sex marriage in an historic referendum that marks a dramatic social shift in the traditionally Catholic country, government ministers and opponents of the bill said on Saturday (May 23).

Final results are not expected until later in the day in a vote that would make Ireland the first country to adopt same-sex marriage via a popular vote, just two decades after the country decriminalised homosexuality.

State broadcaster RTE said the victory appeared to be overwhelming and government minister Kevin Humphreys predicted the margin would be two-to-one.

‘Yes’ campaigners embraced at the main count centre in Dublin as the high approval rate became clear.

Gay marriage is backed by all political parties, championed by big employers and endorsed by celebrities, all hoping it will mark a transformation in a country that was long regarded as one of the most socially conservative in Western Europe.

Only a third of the country backed the decriminalisation of gay sex for men over 17 in 1993, according to a poll at the time.

The Catholic Church, whose doctrine teaches homosexuality is a sin, 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 have led the opposition, 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.