Until 1993, homosexuality was a criminal offense in Ireland. Now, Ireland’s gay population has earned the right to marry. Ireland overwhelmingly approved a referendum to allow same-sex marriage on Saturday, becoming the first country in the world to achieve marriage equality through the popular vote. Though the final tally is not yet known, the referendum obtained the support of an estimated 65 percent of the population. David Quinn, the director of the Iona Institute and a prominent supporter of the “no” campaign, conceded the referendum’s defeat early Saturday morning.
Congratulations to the Yes side. Well done. #MarRef— David Quinn (@DavQuinn) May 23, 2015
Supporters of marriage equality erupted with jubilation in Dublin, Ireland’s capital, which has long been a liberal stronghold. But the referendum received support throughout the entire country, even in rural districts that have traditionally resisted social change.
As a result of the referendum, which amends Ireland’s constitution to approve marriage of two people “without distinction as to their sex,” gay couples in the country will be able to marry as soon as this summer.
A “Most Catholic Country”
Saturday’s legalization of same-sex marriage represents a stunning turnaround in an Ireland that, for decades, was known for its religiosity and social conservatism. Deemed the “world’s most Catholic country” by Pope Paul VI in 1946, more than 90 percent of Irish citizens attended Mass as recently as the 1970s. Correspondingly, the church’s conservative values held sway over the country’s political and legal life. Homosexuality remained a criminal offense until 1993, 26 years after a similar law was overturned in England, and Irish voters only legalized divorce (by a slim margin) in 1995. Abortion remains illegal to the present day.